Liverpool have identified Shakhtar Donetsk's Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a leading transfer target for the summer and are not deterred by the £22m price tag on one of the most coveted players in European football.
The Anfield club have registered their interest in the Armenia international, who scored a record 25 goals in the Ukrainian Premier League last season despite operating as an attacking midfielder. Mkhitaryan put Europe's leading clubs on alert following Shakhtar's elimination from the Champions League by admitting he wanted to play for "one of the strongest clubs in the world", and the 24-year-old was subsequently linked with Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Liverpool, however, tracked the midfielder throughout last season and believe Mkhitaryan would consider a move to Anfield despite the lack of European football currently on offer and rival interest.
Armenia's three-time player of the year was a priority signing for the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, before Luis Suárez began pushing for the move that could transform the club's transfer strategy and budget. Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's owners, are prepared to sanction a big money move for Mkhitaryan without a deal in place for Suarez, with both Real and Atletico Madrid interested in the Uruguay international, although uncertainty over other Anfield players is a complication at present.
Liverpool agreed a £15m deal with West Ham United for Andy Carroll within days of the Premier League season ending and had hoped the transfer would be completed swiftly to allow them to move on to targets such as Mkhitaryan. But the England international has refused to be pushed into joining Sam Allardyce's team on a long-term basis, following a successful though injury-plagued season on loan, and has been waiting for other options.
Carroll still has three years remaining on his Liverpool contract but has been told he has no future at Anfield regardless of whether Suarez leaves and with Daniel Sturridge likely to miss the start of next season with an ankle ligament injury. Besides forcing his way back into Rodgers's plans, having drawn encouragement from Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing doing likewise last season, the 24-year-old also wishes to return to Newcastle United but his former club are not prepared to match West Ham's offer.West Ham have not placed a time-scale on an answer from Carroll and, though Liverpool are confident the £15m transfer will eventually proceed, the Anfield club are concerned the impasse could affect other deals.
Liverpool do expect to complete the £7.7m signing of the Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas this week, with the 25-year-old due on Merseyside for a medical following his club's relegation reprieve on the final day of the Spanish league season, and have agreed the free transfer of Kolo Touré when his Manchester City contract expires at the end of the month. Rodgers has several targets beyond Mkhitaryan, however, with his defence in need of several additions and the next season's strike-force clouded by Suárez's discontent. Liverpool have yet to receive an official bid for last season's 30-goal striker, who will have to submit a transfer request when the anticipated move from Madrid arrives.
Rodgers, who plans to move for the Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet should Pepe Reina leave this summer, is willing to pay £12m for his first-choice central defender, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, and is also keen on Tiago Ilori, of Sporting Lisbon. But Schalke are insisting on closer to £20m for Papadopoulos, who missed the final months of the Bundesliga season with a knee injury, and Liverpool are reluctant to be dragged into an auction for the Greek.
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