UEFA have hit back at Arsenal over their decision to leave Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of their Europa League final team, claiming the club received assurances regarding his safety from ‘the highest authorities’ in Azerbaijan.
The former Manchester United star has played a key role in Arsenal’s run to the final against Chelsea, which will take place in Baku next Wednesday, but the 30-year-old will take no part amid safety fears after talks with his club.
UEFA, however, claimed they helped devise a comprehensive plan but respect Arsenal’s decision to leave out one of their most important players.
A statement read: ‘Working alongside Arsenal FC, UEFA sought and received assurances regarding the player’s safety in Azerbaijan from the highest authorities in the country.
‘As a result of these guarantees, a comprehensive security plan was developed and given to the club.
‘While the club acknowledges the efforts that UEFA and the Azeri government have gone to in this matter, we respect the personal decision not to travel with the player.’
Arsenal had earlier said on the club’s official website : ‘We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea.
‘We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party.
‘We have written to UEFA expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.
‘We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career.
‘Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.’