Despite Cologne's impending relegation, Germany left back Jonas Hector has signed a new contract until 2023. Rather than a ruse to get more money from a lucrative transfer, the club says he is staying.
Jonas Hector is Cologne through and through — so much so that he is willing to play in the second division.
A club statement on Monday said the 27-year-old "ends all speculation regarding a transfer and extends his contract. He will make no use of his opt-out clause and instead commits his long-term future to Cologne."
He had been linked with Borussia Dortmund but now the likely World Cup starter seems set to drop down a tier after Cologne drew 2-2 with Schalke on Sunday to leave Bundesliga survival virtually impossible.
There were tears from several Cologne players after the final whistle, but at least fans have now been given a boost for next season under new coach Markus Anfang. Hector is clearly Cologne's best player, having operated across the park in various positions this term, and his commitment to the cause is admirable.
"Cologne allowed me to take the path from the regional league (fourth division) to the German national team," Hector said.
"I am very connected and thankful to this club and feel very comfortable living in Cologne. It would have been no problem for me to switch to another club after this season, but it would not have felt right. We had many talks in the past few weeks and I had enough time to think about it. The decision for me is clear: I belong to Cologne and I want to go into the new season with this team and with these fans.”
Some supporters may have worried this was a ploy from the club to increase his opt-out clause and prise more money out of Dortmund. But the statement seems unequivocal. Hector is staying at Cologne, a second division player will surely be turning out for world champions Germany in Russia. That is quite a feat.
After the World Cup, Germany coach Joachim Löw will have to consider Hector's continued involvement in the national team in the Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers if he remains a second-tier player. The fact Hector is willing to take that risk speaks volumes for his loyalty to Cologne.