Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels is the focus of a European tripod at current, with Manchester United, Arsenal, and Barcelona all battling it out to lure him to their clubs. So, which end of the love triangle will the Germany international head to, or will he stay put at Westfalenstadion and see out the four years left on his current contract?
Hummels was picked up by German giants Bayern Munich aged just six. For the next decade, he sculpted his trade with the Bavarians and slowly progressed through the youth sides and the reserve team, and in 2007 he was handed his first appearance in the Bayern first team. His hard work had paid off, but after the said appearance - the visit of Mainz on the final day of the 2006/07 season, Hummels was shipped to Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund on loan.
Still only 19, Hummels built a strong reputation in his homeland, and this bloomed steadily when Neven Subotic followed Jurgen Klopp to the club from Mainz in the summer of 08. The pairing would again be combined when Dortmund confirmed the permanent signing of Hummels almost exactly a year from the date he signed on loan.
The duo were hailed as the best central defensive couple in Europe by many, ahead of the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United, and they were a key factor to the Black and Yellows securing back to back Bundesliga titles (2010/11 & 2011/12).
Borussia Dortmund's domestic displays have been far from stellar this campaign, and have been eclipsed by Bayern Munich's dominance throughout. With Jupp Heynckes' men winning the title with a record six games to go, it has left BVB fighting for second place with Bayer Leverkusen. However, whatever has been lacking for the Klopp's troops has certainly not hindered their European adventure.
Dortmund's extraordinary form in the Champions League has seen them progress to the semi-finals of the competition and will soon go toe-to-toe with Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid for a place in the final.
Hummels has been a rock at the back in whatever competition he has been relied upon. In his 24 Bundesliga appearances this term he has an astounding 68% success in his attempted duels - the highest from the entire outfield squad. A closer look reveals that 59 of his 76 tackles have been successful, 18 of his 29 attempted take ons have been won, and a whopping 62% of his 76 areal duels have been a success.
The giant defender is also blessed with technical brilliance, which I will discuss, and it has allowed him to create four assists in the Bundesliga and another in the Champions League.
In his last outing, a formidable 6-1 thrashing of Greuther Furth at the weekend, Hummels completed five of his six tackles, 100% of his headed duels, 100% of his clearances, made two vital interceptions and ended the 90 minutes with 88% of his passes reaching their target.
As touched upon, Hummels is incredible with the ball at his feet, despite being 6ft 4in. He releases an essence of calm whenever he is on the field, allowing him to go about his business without breaking a sweat. Due to his accomplished ball control Hummels often drives forward with the ball, acting as a deep-lying playmaker while floating balls to his attacking teammates. His range of passing for a centre-back is sublime and makes him an alluring player to watch, and combined with his clever ability to read the game has seen him be deployed as a defensive midfielder for both club and country at times.
For the life of me I cannot see the 24-year-old joining up with fellow German centre-back Per Metersacker at the Emirates, for two reasons. Firstly, despite the rumours Arsene Wenger will have £70m to spend in the summer, if he is still at the club, the Frenchman is unlikely to spend a large chunk of that on a single player. Secondly, Arsenal are not likely to be challenging for Champions League glory any time soon.
Which leaves us with Manchester United and Barcelona, both of whom look like securing their respected league titles soon. It has been well documented that Fergie is desperate for a big name centre-back to settle his injury-riddled backline. However, Hummels looks to have decided where his future sits, recently telling Sport Bild: "My father and I would turn down about 99.9 per cent of all the clubs in the world if they approached us. However, Barcelona are one out of two or three teams that could make me consider a summer transfer.”