The international break is an intriguing time with interviews and quotes for the rumour mongers to feast on as players speak to their local press during national service. Christian Benteke shared his dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time at Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp this week, only hastening an exit that was already likely from what has been witnessed from the season to date. It's not an irretrievable situation, but with the way the season has gone, a summer departure seems likely.
What of Marc-André ter Stegen at Barcelona? The talented German goalkeeper has been linked with a move to Melwood and is currently vying with Paris Saint-Germain's Kevin Trapp and Bayer Leverkusen's Bernd Leno for the number two spot behind undisputed Germany number one, Manuel Neuer. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper is rightly recognised as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best around. Neuer is about to turn 30, and while that is still young for a goalkeeper, he may not be first-choice ahead of the next Euros. Neuer is almost certain to be first-choice at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the road to succeeding him may begin with securing a regular role as his understudy.
All four of the aforementioned goalkeepers are currently in the German squad for games against England and Italy in an expanded squad. Liverpool's Emre Can is among an impressive midfield group, too. For Barcelona's cup goalkeeper, this coming summer is going to present an potentially pivotal moment in his career. The magnificent René Adler's chance effectively came and went years ago, while the 27-year-old Ron-Robert Zieler has a few younger goalkeepers ahead of him in the pecking order. There's also the rise of two promising 22-year-olds in Timo Horn and Loris Karius to consider. Simply put, Marc-André ter Stegen needs to be a number one and feature as much as possible, especially considering he turns 24 next month.
Arguments can be made that he's playing for Barcelona and gaining vital experience in high-pressure situations, but just witness the depth of talent Joachim Löw can call upon. Every rival for his position is playing every week and banking at least close to 40 games each season, sometimes up to 50 and beyond with lengthy cup runs. Neuer will most likely have made more appearances last season than Ter Stegen in the last two seasons combined, even factoring in a run to another Champions League final in May.
With all this to consider, would it not be natural for a 23-year-old on international duty to be asked questions about his future at domestic and international level? Most reports, however, haven't touched on the various issues discussed with TZ such as a potential Champions League meeting with Bayern, the significance of the space-finding Thomas Müller, and the most curious peculiarities of former teammate and current national talking point -- Max Kruse. The juiciest area, of course, was his position at Barcelona and rivalry with Claudio Bravo, Barcelona's preferred goalkeeper for league action.
"The situation is as it is," Ter Stegen explained after being asked about his current role at Barcelona. "The coach decides and selects the team. At the end of the season, I will have made about 25 games. This is not a little, but when I return from the national team, I'll probably sit on the bench again in the league for El Clásico against Real Madrid. In the long run, these 25 games per season are not enough for me.
"Claudio is certainly a good goalkeeper. But everyone wants to get the best for themselves and play every three or four days in goal. That's my target, that's his target. I want to take the next step and play more. Therefore, the situation is clear: If nothing changes, we need to talk. In football, sometimes things happen very quickly."
Many of the quotes elsewhere were understandably pieced together for brevity, but the comments above came in succession with only a needless sentence or two removed here for clarity However, there is a glaring error in many English reports due to not actually reading the piece in German. When Ter Stegen said, "I hope that the quality that I have recently shown, is rewarded" on his future, he was specifically referring to his place in the Germany squad.
Sven Westerschulze -- who conducted the interview Ter Stegen -- made the point that a Champions League winning goalkeeper might have a claim for a permanent place in the squad, naturally leading to Ter Stegen's reply. It wasn't about his club position, but it appears that has been placed onto the quotes above when it came quite earlier in the interview. Whether this was a wilful attempt to slightly sensationalise the comments or a result of translation difficulties is unknown, but it's clear that Ter Stegen was measured and respectful in addressing his status at the Spanish giants.
Liverpool could offer Ter Stegen a fine opportunity to find what he's looking for, much in the same way Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge found since they arrived over three years ago. Mario Götze, Liverpool's rumoured top target for the summer, has similar needs. Such considerations also brought the much-loved Mamadou Sakho to Merseyside, and the combination of requiring playing time at a prominent club in a top league and the presence of Germany's most high-profile manager could bring some talented German internationals to Anfield.
Simon Mignolet and his five-year-contract shouldn't prevent some quality competition coming in, and Liverpool have consistently provided a platform for talented players to show their worth over a number of seasons. With Klopp in charge, it's not churlish to suggest that young German players and their representatives could be looking at a move to Liverpool in the coming months.
Klopp's compatriots are keenly following what the 48-year-old is doing in England, and in December, Liverpool launched a German-language twitter account based on the presence and reach of the new manager in charge. The hope is that players who will instantly improve the first eleven, such as Ter Stegen and Götze, will seize an opportunity to consistently play 90 minutes, develop, thrive, and become the players that their current clubs thought they would become. Current frustrations might provide Merseyside's finest with some tantalising transfer prospects in 2016.