Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Arsenal will be given the full support of UEFA in order to secure a visa for the Armenia international to play in the Europa League final in Azerbaijan next month if the club reach the May 28 showpiece in Baku, sources have told ESPN FC.
Arsenal face Napoli in Italy on Thursday on the brink of a semifinal encounter with either Villarreal or Valencia having secured a 2-0 quarterfinal first-leg victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s team at the Emirates last Thursday.
But if Arsenal reach the final, they must overcome the issue of Mkhitaryan playing in Azerbaijan — a country which currently prohibits the entry of citizens from Armenia due to an ongoing territorial conflict over the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Mkhitaryan was omitted from Arsenal’s squad for the Europa League group game against Qarabag last October for unspecified reasons, prompting Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov to claim that the London club were “afraid” of travelling to Azerbaijan with the Armenia captain in the team.
The former Manchester United midfielder also sat out a trip to Azerbaijan in 2015, when Borussia Dortmund chose to leave him in Germany for a clash against Gabala due to “security reasons,” despite assurances from Azerbaijan’s authorities that a visa would be granted to Mkhitaryan.
Armenia, however, sent athletes to compete in the 2015 European Games in Baku due to a visa exemption for sporting participants, and sources have told ESPN FC that UEFA are confident that Mkhitaryan and Arsenal would be successful in any bid to secure an Azerbaijan visa.
European football’s governing body has insisted that all efforts will be made to ensure that the process runs smoothly.
A UEFA spokesperson told ESPN FC: “It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players and allow them to play in UEFA competition matches.”