Mkhitaryan: ‘Juve say they are aiming for fourth place? It’s a strategy, they want to put pressure on us’


Inter midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan believes that Juve are using a strategy by suggesting they are only aiming for fourth place: “They want to put pressure on us and Milan.” The Nerazzurri sit in first place in the Serie A table at the half way point of the season, but Juve are just two points behind, with Milan third. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Mkhitaryan discussed the seasons title race and explained why he chose to renew with Inter, despite having offers from overseas:

Micki, isn’t it a chess game?

“There are 20 games, it’s a race of stages where you’re always playing against different teams, not just Juve. That’s where the difference lies, in consistency in each challenge week after week. The goal for us is clear, right from the start: it is the second star’.

Don’t you think Juve are hiding a bit when they say they are aiming for fourth place?

“It’s a strategy, they want to put pressure on us and Milan, but they’re also aiming for the title: everyone plays their own game and we’ll see in the end…”.

In what do you feel stronger?

“Although we have changed so much, I feel the same positive atmosphere in the locker room and the same winning mentality: the strength in Inter lies in the solid foundations. Indeed, compared to last season, we have made a leap in maturity: we have understood what was missing to be really a great team. A little bit of serenity and the right experience that you only get with certain matches”.

What do you think when you hear that your midfield is among the best in Europe?

“I think it’s true, we have a strong and varied midfield. Everyone talks about me, Calha and Barella, but the secret is that if someone else plays, be it Frattesi, Klaassen, Asllani or Sensi, he knows what to do.”

What do you envy about your fellow starters like Calhanoglu and Barella?

“I wouldn’t steal anything from them because the great thing is our diversity. We are even stronger together, we complete each other like a puzzle. But we are a puzzle just as a team, we are all useful.”

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But with the three of you, life gets tough for Frattesi.

“Davide is very strong. I’m sorry he’s playing less for now, but he knows that only the common goal counts. He has time and talent on his side: he will be a pillar of the Inter team of the future.”

Calhanoglu once told Gazzetta that the Italian league is underrated. Do you agree?

“He’s right, I don’t understand why this happens. Already from the first game we played in Italy, Roma v Sassuolo, I was struck by the quality. And the players are also underestimated unjustly: there are strong people here, we have to be proud of the movement’.

Have you ever felt undervalued yourself?

“Yes… Since I arrived at Inter when I was 33, perhaps I was thought of as someone who was only destined to make up the numbers and not be incisive. However, from day one, I made it clear that I didn’t want to waste time and make a contribution to victory’.

And so the renewal was well deserved: what does this newly placed signature until 2026 mean?

“It means that this is home and I’m happy to live here. I’m talking about a whole world, not just the teammates and the club, but the fans and the workers at the club: it’s that famous Nerazzurri puzzle I was talking about… I’ll stay until I’m 37, I’ll do everything I can to have this freshness. I’ve been to big European clubs and I can say that Inter are at that level there, in the elite.

You have only missed nine matches. And in the 73 played do you know which one was the one with the least minutes on the pitch?

“The Champions League final… I haven’t seen it again and I don’t intend to: it would only hurt me. Unfortunately I got injured three weeks before. That final was the exam after months of lessons: we failed it, but nobody kept their heads down. There the desire to try again was triggered: we can go back to playing a final and win it. From that game we are building what we are now.

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Between you and a new run in the competition is Atletico

“We wanted to avoid them, but they also wanted to avoid us. It will be a beautiful and difficult challenge: I imagine it will be very tactical.”

From Lucescu to Klopp, Mou and many others, you have had several masters: who has left you the most?

‘It all started with Lucescu, then Mou was the toughest, but he was a real winner: he saw nothing but victory. Klopp in Dortmund was a psychologist. Before a finish we bet 50 euros: I had to score 7 times out of 10. I lost and paid. The next day, however, a double in Frankfurt: ‘Now give me back my 50…’, I said jokingly. From that moment on, no more bets between us!”.

And what is his relationship with Inzaghi?

‘I’m older now and that changes the perception. I started working with Inzaghi when I was 33 and a relationship almost as a friend was created, even though I know the difference in roles. But I can say that he is formidable and it shows in his play.’

Everyone says, ‘I didn’t expect such a strong Thuram…’. Did you think so too?

“I’m delighted that Marcus made everyone think again, not me. It was obvious how complete he was, that’s what we needed. I’ve played with great forwards, from Aubameyang to Ibra and Lewandovski: Marcus with his technique has the same stuff.”

What kind of captain is Lautaro?

“Forget about the armband he has this year: he was already captain last year, in the sense of leader and someone who drags us through. Each of us should be like him, a reference point in every match, because Lautaro won’t be able to decide them all”.

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There is a photo circulating of you as a child with the Armenian-born Inter Milan player Djorkaeff: was he your idol?

“I also admired Youri because at home I had a videotape of the 1996-97 Serie A that I watched over and over again: there was his historic bicycle kick against Roma… I can’t say he was my idol, perhaps more so than Zidane, Baggio and my father, also a footballer. That time, however, I also took a photo with Lilian Thuram: I have it in Armenia, I want to find it and then show it to Marcus’.

How are you getting on with your beloved chess?

“It relaxes me and makes me think. It  also helps me to be a better footballer, they train quick thinking and always moving forward. In general, I prefer to use Instagram less and think more. Maybe read a good book: I’m finishing Beckham’s autobiography and then I’ll start Elon Musk’s. Compared to yesterday, in today’s changing rooms there is less dialogue precisely because of the phone’.

Did you get on better in Italy than elsewhere?

‘Yes, because Italy has an incredible history and great food, just like Armenia. And we are similar peoples, we like joking, talking and, when needed, being smart…. I recommend everyone to visit my country, they will find treasures they don’t expect. And the Armenian barbecue is worth it….’.

Did you know that your resemblance to a successful comedian named Pippo Franco has gone viral?

“I know it well, I am still told it now. I didn’t know him and went looking for him on YouTube. I don’t mind that, in fact I hope he’s famous again too…’.

Mikhi, but what chess piece are you?

“Don’t take me for an arrogant guy, but… a queen: I go everywhere!”.


Serie A obsessive.