In-demand Schalke 04 midfielder Leon Goretzka has confirmed that he will make a decision on his future in January, with Manchester United now said to have joined the crowded race for his services.
Having yet to agree an extension to a contract that is due to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, the highly-rated Germany international has become one of the most sought-after players in Europe over recent months with Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Juventus among the other European heavyweights rumoured to be keeping a watchful eye on his situation.
Arsenal were expected to open talks with Goretzka, while it was reported that the player met with officials from Barcelona during the November international break. Catalonia is widely believed to be his preferred next destination.
Rumours regarding Jose Mourinho and Manchester United's apparent interest began circulating across the English press on Saturday (2 December), with the 22-year-old free to begin negotiating a pre-contract agreement with overseas suitors from 1 January.
However, Schalke have not given up hope of retaining an influential young talent who has made 130 appearances in their colours since joining from VFL Bochum in 2013, with German publication Kicker reporting last week that they had offered him a lucrative club-record deal that included a buyout clause "in the mid double-digit million range" and an annual salary of approximately €12m (£10.5m, $14.2m) including bonuses.
It is supposedly hoped that his contentedness with Die Konigsblauen's progress under head coach Domenico Tedesco after years of underachievement and the experience of the extraordinary recent four-goal Ruhr derby comeback against Borussia Dortmund could be important factors in convincing him to extend his stay at the Veltins-Arena.
Addressing the fervent speculation over his future after coming off the bench to play just under 35 minutes of Schalke's eventful 2-2 draw with 10-man strugglers FC Cologne on Saturday (2 December), Goretzka, who previously denied claims that he had already agreed to join Bayern Munich, insisted such an important process could not be rushed but confirmed that a final decision would be made in January.
"I have to find out for myself what the next step should be," he told reporters, per Goal. "I have to consider a million things. I am a person who is very meticulous in such decisions. I play through all the scenarios. So I need time.
"There doesn't exist a deadline, but I think we are in the final phase. The final decision will be made in January."
That would appear to fit with Schalke's own expectations as they seek to avoid losing an influential player to the Premier League for a second consecutive summer after Sead Kolasinac elected to join Arsenal on a free transfer in July. Last week, director Christian Heidel indicated his belief that things would become clearer by the end of the Bundesliga's winter break.