Ilkay Gundogan has put contract renewal talks with Manchester City on hold, Goal understands.
Sources close to the 28-year-old say he is unconvinced that he will be a regular starter at City beyond the summer and is therefore reluctant to commit the final years of his top-level career to the club.
As it stands he will not be signing a new deal and if that stance does not change it may force City into selling him this summer.
City are determined for Gundogan to stay beyond the end of his current deal in June 2020 and during talks in recent months they have stressed that he will continue to have an important role at the club, but no breakthrough has been made.
The Premier League champions will continue to try to persuade Gundogan to agree fresh terms in the coming weeks but the longer the impasse drags on, the more likely it is that they will try to sell the midfielder at the end of the season rather than risk him leaving on a free transfer.
Gundogan is happy with every other aspect of life at City but is conscious of the fact that his game time depends heavily on injuries to team-mates, as has been the case with Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho this season.
Competition for places is only expected to increase next season should City sign one of their deep-lying midfield targets, while Phil Foden is also expected to get more first-team exposure.
Gundogan has said publicly that he feels “no pressure” to put pen to paper and that he would be willing to wait until the final year of his contract before making a decision.
But if City are unable to persuade him to sign a new deal in the coming weeks, which is their preferred option, they could take the decision to sell for a cut-price this summer as they would not want to let a highly rated player, and valuable asset, walk away for nothing.
Pep Guardiola has already suggested that there is a stand-off between player and club. The Catalan usually brushes off questions regarding contract renewals, but has spoken openly about talks with Gundogan and went as far as saying: “If he was 100 per cent [sure] then the deal would have been done. We are still in negotiations."
Those comments were put to Gundogan 24 hours later, and while he stressed he was “very happy” at the club and that he needs time to reach a decision, he dodged the opportunity to say he would sign a new deal, and also refused to respond when asked to address concerns that he could leave on a free transfer.