Barcelona are reportedly hoping to secure a deal for Leon Goretzka in January, in order to avoid favourites Bayern Munich swooping in and signing him as a free agent in the summer.
That's according to Catalan outlet Mundo Deportivo (h/t Daily Mirror's Liam Prenderville), who reported the Blaugrana have already contacted his representative and are willing to offer up to £15 million to sign the midfielder.
Current club Schalke 04 are also making their move, according to Kicker (via Scouted Football), but Bayern remain the clear favourites to sign the youngster:
The 22-year-old has long been linked with the Bundesliga giants, with numerous reports claiming he has already agreed to join Bayern as a free agent. He previously told Sky Deutschland (h/t ESPN FC's Mark Lovell) he has grown tired of the constant speculation and has denied the reports, but German outlets maintain the deal has been agreed.
Nothing is official until Goretzka puts pen to paper, however, and the remarkable rise in recent speculation suggests multiple teams are still interested. Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City are all added to the list by Prenderville.
Goretzka has long been among the Bundesliga's top young players, becoming Schalke's key man in midfield at a young age. He's been excellent for the German national team as well and was arguably their top performer at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
While he's a complete midfielder who can pass with the best of them and score the occasional goal, he mostly stands out for his defensive contributions, per WhoScored.com:
His status as a pending free-agent makes him a prime target for Bayern, a club that has added plenty of Bundesliga talent on free transfers over the years. Barcelona's supposed plan for a January transfer seems flawed from the start―while it would be a perfect scenario for Schalke, the player himself has no reason whatsoever to sign a deal he does not like.
If Goretzka wants to move to Spain, he could simply sign a pre-contract in January, play out the remaining months on his deal with Schalke and move to Catalonia in the summer. With no transfer fee to worry about, the club would likely offer him better terms than if he were to sign in January.
Either way, it will be up to the Catalans to convince him not to move to the Allianz Arena, if most reports are to be believed. With plenty of time left between now and January, the race should only heat up moving forward.