Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels is at a crossroads. Twenty-seven years of age and with the Black and Yellows for eight-and-a-half years now, he has to decide whether he wants to spend the rest of his career at the Westfalenstadion or move elsewhere.
It's a dilemma the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner has been stewing over for quite some time, as he admitted after the win over Hertha BSC in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals earlier in April:
Since he made that statement, Bayern Munich have emerged as the frontrunner in case he does decide to leave the club.
Hummels joined Dortmund from the Bavarian side in 2008, having spent 13 years at his boyhood club before the move to the Black and Yellows.
Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke confirmed what many fans feared in a talk-show appearance on German TV channel Sky on Monday (via ESPN FC): "I believe that if he leaves us, it will be [in the] direction [of] Bayern Munich."
Bild (link in German), meanwhile, reported "that Bayern are leading the race for his services and that he only needs to put pen to paper on a deal that would offer him an annual basic salary of €10 million, which would match the offer from BVB," per ESPN FC's Stephan Uersfeld.
It would not be the first time the Bavarian giants had poached from Dortmund. Since the Black and Yellows returned to greatness under Jurgen Klopp, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski moved south from the Westfalenstadion. However, Hummels' departure would be a much bigger loss.
Gotze was 21 when he left Dortmund for Bayern in 2013. A great talent, no doubt; the prodigal son, even. But not more. Losing him to the biggest sporting rivals hurt the fans, but he wasn't too hard to replace on the field.
Lewandowski, on the other hand, left Dortmund as a world-class striker, and the club had difficulties replacing him, signing Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos for a combined sum of circa €30 million, per Transfermarkt.de (link in German), only to find out that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whom the club had added in 2013, was their best option.
Poland international Lewandowski, however, was never beloved by the masses. He was professional and incredibly effective on the field, but he never became a fan favourite.
Hummels combines both things: He's a world-class centre-back, perhaps Dortmund's most important player in the build-up phase and a fan favourite.
The 27-year-old has worn the captain's armband for the last two seasons and is the undisputed leader of the team. He's also a face of the club, especially since Klopp left and the less charismatic Thomas Tuchel took over in 2015.
It would be hard to replace Hummels on the pitch, as there are only a handful of centre-backs with his skill set, none of whom are likely to be in Dortmund's price range.
Finding a player who could take over the defender's responsibilities on the ball will be a tough task for the Black and Yellows.
Off the pitch, it would be impossible to replace Hummels. He's the team's mouthpiece, a true ambassador of the club.
Losing him would be bad enough, but losing him to rivals Bayern would be a severe blow.
Hummels told Bild (link in German) earlier in April (h/t YellowWallPod.com's Stefan Buczko): "I realise in every year I don’t win a title, I'm closer to retiring. The [UEFA] Champions League is a target for me in any case. I want to win this title."
Moving away from Dortmund, despite the impressive season they're putting together in Tuchel's first year in charge, would mean Hummels no longer believes he can achieve his dream with the Black and Yellows.
That alone would be a tough pill to swallow for Dortmund fans. Seeing him join up with the enemy from Bavaria would make it so much worse.