While the rumors have been swirling around since early 2013, it seems more and more likely that this will be Dortmund's last season with midfield sensation Ilkay Gündoğan. Extending his contract twice by only one year each time has hinted at his hesitation to commit his future to the club. Gündoğan's contract expires in the summer of 2017, meaning this summer will be our last chance to receive a hefty fee for him if he decides not to extend his contract. While there's a chance he could stay, the ongoing silence about his future isn't exactly encouraging for Dortmund.
In recent history, Dortmund have done well to replace departing stars, especially in the cases of Nuri Sahin, Mario Gotze, and Robert Lewandowski. Sahin was replaced by Gündoğan, Gotze by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Lewandowski by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. All three of these replacements were wise investments by the Dortmund brass, and we should expect them to adequately replace Gündoğan as well.
However, it may not take a signing to find the man best suited to replace Gündoğan effectively. Dortmund have a few options in their current squad that could make a case to be Ilkay's replacement if he does decide to leave.
The man that's currently best suited in the Dortmund squad to replace Gündoğan is Mkhitaryan. The Armenian possesses many similar skills to our current number 8, including his strong dribbling and passing ability, and high work rate. Mkhitaryan's played that role on a few occasions for Dortmund, most notably in the 2-0 Supercup win over Bayern in 2014. Mkhitaryan is a better shooter from distance and has a better overall end product than Gündoğan does.
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There's no doubt that Mkhitaryan's best, and probably more preferred, position is higher up the pitch, but he's got the ability to play at the 8 in a way similarly effective to Gündoğan. While playing deeper does make his strong finishing less of an attribute, Mkhitaryan offers more than that. Also, a certain Bastian Schweinsteiger started out on the wing in his earlier days at Bayern. As we all know, Schweinsteiger ended up making the switch to a box-to-box midfielder, a move that allowed his career to flourish. The comparison is a stretch, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan does have the skills necessary to become a successful Gündoğan replacement.
However, this switch would open up Mkhitaryan's spot in the line-up. With the lack of wingers in our squad, we'd likely have to go out and buy someone, but a winger/attacking midfielder would be much easier to replace than a box-to-box midfielder whose style has a greater affect on the team.
While this is more of a stretch, Moritz Leitner could possibly get a chance to replace Gündoğan. Since his introduction to the first team, Leitner has done much better than anyone thought he would do. After multiple strong appearances as a substitute, he earned himself a starting spot against Bayer Leverkusen. Leitner typically plays more advanced than Gündoğan, but he's featured all over the midfield in his previous time at Dortmund and at Stuttgart.
Another long shot would be Nuri Sahin, as he did an exceptional job playing for Gündoğan in the 2013-2014 season. With Sahin, the midfield would be more defensively stable and controlling than the current style with Gündoğan, as Nuri has grown into more of a defensive player with his age and injury problems.
As Gündoğan's departure looks more and more likely, there will be increased speculation as to who will replace our crucial midfielder. Watzke and Zorc are surely out looking, but it wouldn't be a terrible idea to look internally, especially at Mkhitaryan, for a replacement.