Liverpool Executive Said to Scrap Brazil Trip to Sign Mkhitaryan

Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre scrapped a trip to Brazil this weekend to try to complete the signing of Shakhtar Donetsk attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan for 20 million pounds ($31 million), according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

Ayre was scheduled to be on a panel at a conference in Rio de Janeiro tomorrow to discuss economic opportunities for soccer. Instead he’s staying in Europe to negotiate with three-time Armenian player of the year Mkhitaryan, 24, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the deal isn’t complete.

Liverpool, an 18-time English champion, is trying to rebuild under Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group, which in 2010 bought the team from banks after its previous owners defaulted on loans. Last season Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League under new manager Brendan Rodgers, meaning it won’t be playing in European competition during the next campaign. Ayre didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Mkhitaryan, who plays as an attacking midfielder, scored a record 25 goals in the Ukraine’s top division last season. Liverpool faces competition from teams in Germany, Spain and France for the player, who could join by the end of next week if the bid is successful, according to the person.

Shakhtar is ready to sell the player, who still needs to be convinced to sign a contract with the Reds, the person said. Shakhtar didn’t respond to an e-mail requesting comment during non-business hours.

The signing would be a lift for the Reds, who may lose top scorer Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan said he wants to leave after getting a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic at the end of last season. He also served an eight-match suspension in 2012 for racist remarks toward Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

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