Schalke are hoping to gain more "clarity" on the future of Leon Goretzka by the time the Bundesliga begins its annual winter break in mid-December, although their prospects of convincing the talented young box-to-box midfielder to stay appear increasingly bleak amid suggestions that he is set to choose between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Goretzka's long-term future has been the subject of fervent speculation for several months now, with his current contract at Veltins-Arena due to expire in June 2018. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have all been said to be monitoring his situation, while earlier this summer both the German international and Schalke director Christian Heidel adamantly denied persistent rumours that he had already agreed to join Bayern.
News of Barcelona's interest in Goretzka came to light in late August, when technical secretary Robert Fernandez and assistant Urbano Ortega travelled to watch both him and Liverpool-bound Naby Keita in action during a meeting between Schalke and RB Leipzig in Gelsenkirchen.
It was subsequently reported that Goretzka's agents travelled to Catalonia with the permission of Schalke, who are understandably eager to avoid losing such an important player to a domestic rival for nothing, to offer their client to Barcelona.
However, such a move never came to fruition with the Blaugrana focusing on respective pursuits of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho after bolstering their central midfield options with the signing of former Tottenham Hotspur flop Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande.
"I'd like to think that by the winter break we will have clarity," Heidel recently told Sport Bild, per ESPN.
However, the same publication reports that Barcelona have now intervened following suggestions of an agreement with Bayern and are switching their attention to Goretzka with Andres Iniesta due to turn 34 next year and having yet to officially sign a proposed new contract. It now appears that the former VfL Bochum prodigy will have a straight choice between his main two suitors, with a decision expected by January at the latest.
Any fears that Bayern may miss out on the Confederations Cup winner seem to have been allayed by ex-club stalwart Olaf Thon, who believes that a deal with Bayern is already completed. He also thinks that signing an extension could actually be a good move for Goretzka at this stage of his development.
"He has a lot of self-confidence at the moment," Thon told Goal. "Nevertheless, I believe that all contracts with Bayern are sewn up. At least that is my impression. The fact that no-one is talking about this topic at the moment is very suspicious. Regarding him staying at Schalke, I am anything but optimistic. Schalke would need a minor miracle."
Vice-captain Goretzka has made six appearances for fifth-place Schalke so far this term, but was powerless to prevent Domenico Tedesco's side from slipping to a 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern on Tuesday evening (19 September). According to Kicker, Die Konigsblauen are willing to break their wage structure by offering him lucrative new terms in the region of £8.8m-a-year.