Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the UEFA Europa League final after the player deemed it too unsafe to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan have been in ongoing conflict and political tension with Mkhitaryan’s native country, Armenia, ultimately raising concerns about the player entering the country.
Mkhitaryan was understandably disappointed with the outcome and that he will not be able to help his side taste rare European success.
“We had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the Europa League final,” he said.
“It’s the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often and I admit, it hurts a lot to miss it.”
UEFA decided to award Baku the final to help ‘spread the game’, however Mkhitaryan’s absence will contradict that statement.
Gunners boss Unai Emery will be frustrated that he will not have one of his attacking weapons in Baku, however he respects his player’s decision.
“It’s bad news but we cannot do anything for this issue, it’s a very personal decision and we need to respect him,” he said.
“I don’t understand the political problems now, but I must respect [his decision].
“He wants to play to help us by being with the team but they spoke, both him and his family, and decided not to go.”
The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) were baffled by Mkhitaryan’s decision, saying he would have had no trouble entering the country.
“We very much regret this unwarranted decision taken, as we understand, collectively by Arsenal, the player and his family,” the AFFA said.
“There is no reason whatsoever to put in question the seriousness of these guarantees provided by Azerbaijan.
“Over the past decade a large number of Armenian athletes have taken part in various international sports events in Azerbaijan without any issues.”
Mkhitaryan will not be alone in missing the game, as thousands of supporters from both Arsenal and Chelsea are set to be locked out of the historic final.
Despite the Baku Olympic Stadium holding a capacity of 68,700, transport limitations have restricted each club to just 6,000 available tickets for travelling fans.
Arsenal have since released a statement questioning the decision to play the final in Azerbaijan.
The final will take place on the 29th of May (CET) with the winner going into pot 1 for next season’s UEFA Champions League draw.