COMMENT: In a time where hyperinflation has struck the world of football like a Biblical plague, price-tags put on the heads of players have soared beyond comprehension and reason.
The recent boom means the gap between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy clubs has widened more so to the point the sport is entering unchartered territory. Countless clubs could be set to miss out on millions with relatively low release clauses in place and, worse yet, players leaving for nothing come summer time.
One club ahead of the curve is Bayern Munich. In recent years, the Bavarians have reclaimed their seat at the table of Europe's elite, after a period of obscurity, but can owe their resurrection down to their unparalleled business plan.
Not keen to splash the cash quite like Real Madrid and PSG, Bayern have instead courted a more surgical means of recruitment in focusing on home turf, with Germany light years ahead of many in terms of player development.
Schalke's Leon Goretzka will join a star-studded midfield in due course, but there can be little room for doubt other clubs chasing his signature have missed out more than some would believe.
The midfielder has established himself as the lynchpin in a Schalke side mired in obscurity, but his presence alone makes the Ruhr side a formidable foe, regardless.
The 23-year-old has an array of tools in his skillset that belly his age. Initially experimented in a variety of positions after arriving from VfL Bochum – including the wing – it soon became evident the centre of the pitch was Goretzka's most influential position.
After last season's remarkable success, Real Madrid have nosedived to the point Toni Kroos admitted the club are aiming for a top-four finish. Not only is the title out of reach, Los Blancos have been dumped out of the Copa del Rey by lowly CD Leganés, which further highlights the dire situation rife in the Spanish capital.
Simply put, Madrid look nowhere near as fluid as they did in claiming their twelfth European Cup. Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić – two players among the best midfielders in the world – have looked sub-par and the team are suffering from a lack of urgency when in possession.
With this in mind, Goretzka would have been an excellent addition for a side bereft of pace.
Goretzka has been an incisive presence for die Königsblauen in storming directly up the pitch with deceptively good pace and so ignited many attacks of his own accord.
If you look at the goalless draw against Athletic Club at the San Mamés, Real Madrid attempted 31 crosses, further epitomising the lack of endeavour among the ranks. The Schalker would have provided Zinedine Zidane's side with a massive dose of energy.
Of course, Clásico rivals Barcelona were also linked to Goretzka, albeit with seemingly more reliability. Though nowhere near in as bad a mess as Madrid, Barcelona missed out on a shrewd piece of business to set themselves up for the future.
At the age of 33, Andrés Iniesta is almost certainly nearing the end of his playing career and, although he is not a like-for-like replacement, Goretzka could have been a valuable commodity in Ermesto Valverde's pressing system.
Perhaps more importantly is the financial side of things: Barcelona have reportedly encountered issues surrounding Financial Fair Play and having splashed north of £100m on Philippe Coutinho, a player arriving on a free would have perhaps balanced the books.
Naturally, Goretzka's effervescent displays for club and country caught the attention of the Premier League.
Arsenal and Liverpool have gathering a reputation for recruiting players who have notably plied their trade in Germany, but missed the boat with what would have been their best value-for-money signing in ages.
Both sets of midfields have long anchored the ambitions of Arsenal and Liverpool. The Gunners have been hit hard with injuries to Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, while Jürgen Klopp's side have not come close to replacing Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, albeit the imminent arrival of Naby Keïta may have quelled demand.
It is indeed perplexing how so many clubs striving to succeed and improve did not move mountains to acquire a phenomenal talent in Leon Goretzka. Of course, it is likely Bayern was always the immutable destination, but the move may well be looked back on to be a resounding success like Robert Lewandowski.
After all, if Goretzka can perform so well with a side stuck in limbo like Schalke, imagine what he can do with a Bayern team brimming with quality.