Lionel Messi was subbed on during the second half of Barcelona's 0-0 draw with Benfica (via Goal). The night should have been one of history, but it ended in terror.
Leo Messi hit the ground after nearly beating the keeper and grasping his left leg; the Camp Nou went silent.
He was eventually carted off the pitch, leaving many clues to worry over their injured star. The club has yet to give a formal statement on the extent of his injury, but plans must begin if Messi will see an extended absence.
We all wish Messi the best and I personally hope to see him recover in time to not miss any games. But in the world of football, you must be ready for anything.
Let's take a look at the possible players who can fill in for Messi if he is to miss time due to this unfortunate injury.
Cesc Fàbregas is a very likely candidate to fill in for Messi as he is familiar with the role the Argentine plays.
This summer, Fàbregas featured in the "false nine" role for Spain during Euro 2012 (via Goal). The Catalan midfielder achieved success in the position, though it remains evident that his best position is behind the forward.
Fàbregas is wonderful when going forward, yet his scoring ability is far from that of Lionel Messi. If the club want a better scoring threat, Cesc is not the man for the job.
He may be able to perform every duty as a "false nine" but scoring is the one area he will not be able to perform in.
Cesc has recently begun to find his best form since joining Barcelona and though it would not be wrong for him to fill in for Messi, it may be dangerous to change his position when he is just now finding his rhythm.
David Villa is the most likely candidate to fill in for the injured Messi.
He is by far the best goal scoring threat Barcelona has aside from the Argentine. Also, Villa is naturally a center-forward. He would have little difficulty sliding into the middle of the attack for La Blaugrana.
The only issue would be the distribution missing from Messi.
Villa is a great goal threat, but his passing is nowhere near the level of Messi. Fans have grown accustomed to seeing beautiful plays by Messi for assists, as Messi is just as much a creator as he is a scorer.
If Barcelona use Villa in the Messi role, someone else will have to step up creatively for the Catalan giants. But for now, Villa is the most likely candidate to fill in.
A long shot to fill in for Messi would be 18-year-old Gerard Deulofeu.
The U-21 star is one of the most hyped players to recently graduate from La Masia and is destined for a first team spot. Though he may not be ready to perform on the first-team level, he may get the call up to fill in until Messi has recovered.
Deulofeu is a winger by trade, yet his dribbling and scoring ability can be compared to that of Lionel Messi.
He would be able to create while also scoring, which will be greatly needed. It is obvious that Deulofeu has the talent to one day be a world football star, but for now he just is not ready.
Tito Vilanova seems as though he is slowly working Deulofeu into the system, but do not be surprised if he is at least listed on the roster for the next few games.
Lionel Messi is as tough as they come. Countless times he has been brutally tackled, and he always stands up.
The first things fans should expect is for Messi to shrug this off and be ready to play this weekend.
It would not shock anyone if the injury is seen as nothing. Also, with Messi just two goals shy of Gerd Muller's record, he will want to return as soon as possible (via Marca). The year is winding down and Messi only has so many games left.
However, there remains the real possibility that Messi could see time on the sidelines.
Everyone mentioned in this article would be good choices to fill in, but David Villa is truly the best choice the club could make. The team needs scoring, and Villa offers that regardless of which position he plays.
Only time will tell whether or not the injury is serious, but all eyes remain glued to the news constantly coming out of Spain.
This is for you, Messi. We wish you a speedy recovery and a healthy career. We also wish you continued joy in your family life. Rest up and we will see you scoring again very soon.
Now to you, the readers. Who do you see as the most likely candidate to fill in for Messi?