Leon Goretzka is expected to make a decision on his future soon amid reports that Arsenal are looking to edge ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona in the battle for the in-demand midfielder's signature, although Schalke do not appear to have given up hope that he will opt to remain at Veltins-Arena.
Goretzka has made 128 appearances across all competitions for Schalke over a four-year stint since signing from VFL Bochum in 2013, yet is widely expected to leave the Bundesliga title contenders when his current contract expires at the end of the season.
The highly-regarded Germany international is attracting interest from several heavyweight suitors across Europe and previously denied that he had already reached an agreement with Bayern Munich.
Although it has been rumoured on more than one occasion that Goretzka has his heart set on a move to Barcelona, the Mail reported on Tuesday (21 November) that Arsenal were planning to open talks with the 22-year-old in January - when he is able to sign a pre-contract agreement - with a view to completing a free transfer next summer.
The Gunners signed left-back Sead Kolasinac in similar circumstances following his exit from Schalke in June and recently appointed former Borussia Dortmund chief scout Sven Mislintat as their new head of recruitment. Arsene Wenger has also previously raided the German top-flight for the signings of Granit Xhaka, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski.
Despite mounting speculation to the contrary, however, Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel does not believe that a new deal for Goretzka is completely out of the question.
"I think if Schalke had no chance to keep him I would be the first to know that. But I haven't received that kind of information until now," he told Sport Bild, per the Liverpool Echo.
"Leon will make a decision soon without us building any pressure on him."
Schalke are not believed to be contemplating offloading Goretzka in January in order to avoid losing another key player for nothing further down the line and Kicker previously suggested that they were willing to break their wage structure by offering a bumper contract extension worth £8.8m-a-year ($11.7m).
Arsenal are likely targeting Goretzka as a replacement for compatriot Mesut Ozil, who is also out of contract in the summer and is being heavily linked with Barcelona as a potential alternative to Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho.
Manchester United, Inter Milan and Besiktas are also said to be interested in the oft-maligned playmaker, although an emotional return to boyhood club Schalke is out of the question for now at least.
"I still have a great relationship with Mesut," supervisory board chairman Clemens Toennies said earlier this week. "We would definitely consider it [a return]. If it fits for both sides, it would be nice.
"The player could say that he returns to his roots, and that he plays football in this stadium and for those fans and the region once again. But it will certainly not happen next season."