Borussia Dortmund playmaker and Liverpool target Mario Gotze "must go to China" if he does not step up his game at the Westfalenstadion, according to Germany legend Lothar Matthaus. The former Bayern Munich star was heavily linked with a move to Anfield in the summer but eventually returned to his former club for a fee of £21.7m (€25.7m).

Gotze's second spell at Dortmund has not gone according to plan, though; he has not started a game for Thomas Tuchel's men since December and has so far failed to recapture the form that earned him a £35m move to Bayern Munich four years ago.

Matthaus, who won the World Cup with Die Mannschaft in 1990, does not see a viable destination for Gotze in Germany and believes Liverpool's top target last summer is not on the radar of any of Europe's marquee clubs anymore. The former Inter Milan midfielder sees China as a realistic option, but described the 24-year-old's move potential move to East Asia as "pathetic".

"First, leaving Munich and then leaving Dortmund? That can't be the solution," Matthaus told Sport Bild, relayed by The Mirror. "And where should he go? To be honest, and even if it might sound rude: If Gotze does not make it at Dortmund, he must go to China."

"He won't leave for Schalke, he does not fit at Leverkusen, Gladbach can't afford Gotze, top clubs abroad no longer have him on their lists. Like I said: If he does not prevail at Dortmund, and expects similar wages elsewhere, he's off to China. But that would be pathetic for a 24-year-old."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a known admirer of Gotze but the Reds are unlikely to follow up their interest from last summer with a swoop at the end of the season. Klopp and the Liverpool hierarchy are already making plans for the upcoming transfer window but their immediate focus is on a trip to struggling Premier League champions Leicester City.

Mario Gotze
Gotze's second spell at Dortmund has left a lot to be desired. Getty Images