Is Gareth Bale eyeing a future away from Tottenham?
This is the issue that no Tottenham Hotspur fan wants to get started on. Talking about replacing Gareth Bale means that the Welsh dynamo might well leave after this season. And with Real Madrid first in line with plenty of money to spend, it's not a far-fetched possibility.
Of course, there is no real way to truly replace what Bale has meant to this team over the last few years. From his coming-out party against Internazionale in the Champions League to his ridiculous goalscoring exploits this season, he has been the primary driving force in keeping Spurs in the top-four hunt.
Only a player of the caliber of Bale's main competition for the left wing spot at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, could be an immediate replacement at White Hart Lane. But in looking at potential targets, there are players out there who could at least somewhat soften the blow.
What follows is an examination of some of these players, considering options both already in the fold and from abroad. Among those missing the cut:
Clint Dempsey, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Lennon: The established players at Spurs. Dempsey is approaching 30, so he isn't long-term. Sigurdsson has not yet made the same kind of impact as he did at Swansea. Lennon is the starting right winger and needs a mate on the left.
Heung-Min Son: Hamburg's Korean wonder has emerged as a star in the Bundesliga with 11 goals. Is more of a deep-lying center forward than a winger but could play on the flank. Here is an excellent write-up on how he could fit.
Andros Townsend (R) is enjoying a solid loan spell at QPR.
A product of the Spurs youth system, Andros Townsend hasn't had many chances to get much first-team action with the club. As such, he's been shipped off on loan after loan and currently finds himself situated across London at Queens Park Rangers.
And since being reunited with former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp at Loftus Road, the 21-year-old has had a good run of successful performances. He's notched a pair of goals in his eight league games with the club and has put in solid shifts despite the club's poor results.
Townsend is often seen playing in the middle or on the right side for Redknapp's side, but he is naturally left-footed and would be well-suited to take Bale's spot on the left. Having him playing opposite Aaron Lennon on the flanks would give the club a pair of good, pacy options.
His positive performances in his loan spell have already made him subject to transfer offers of his own, as Swansea are rumored to be looking at acquiring his services. He's still very young, as mentioned earlier, and could certainly be groomed to fit Andre Villas-Boas' style.
Saint-Etienne's Gabonese star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has become one of the hotter attacking prospects on the world market. It's no wonder, either. His 17 Ligue 1 goals this season are second only to the goalscoring monster that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
While I earlier dismissed Aaron Lennon as an option for being the right winger, Aubameyang finds himself in that area of the pitch much of the time. Also able as a central striker, as his goal rate indicates, he can do a lot in any system.
Perhaps the biggest reason why he can replace Bale is that strike rate. Not only is he clinical in terms of putting the ball in the net, but he gets the ball on target more often than not—about two-thirds of the time, in fact. Force some tough saves, and who knows what can happen.
If he were to come in, he could be shoehorned into the left-wing role or be allowed to move freely across the forward line. He's got the skills, and he's got the confidence. All he needs is the chance, and Champions League play would certainly be an enticing part of an offer.
Could Patrick Herrmann (L) fit at White Hart Lane?
Somewhat unheralded due to his being on a mid-table Bundesliga side, Borussia Monchengladbach's Patrick Herrmann has begun to make a name for himself. He's been one of his side's more consistent performers and earned his first senior call-up last month, though he did not feature.
A pacy left winger, Herrmann has bagged six goals, tied with striker Luuk de Jong for best on the team. He's also right up there with teammate Marc-Andre ter Stegen in terms of speculation linking him with a move away from the club.
Spurs were linked to a winter move for Herrmann, though nothing ever materialized. Even so, Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl is determined to hold onto his 22-year-old gem. But if the price is right, then it could easily happen.
At worst, Herrmann could end up like Marko Marin at Chelsea: frozen out. But with a Bale-sized gap at left wing, the youngster could find himself thrust into first-team action straight away. And he's got the skills to be a viable option in North London.
Big-time Spurs fans might've been expecting this to pop up in an article like this. Republic of Ireland youth international Kenneth McEvoy bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Welsh star Bale. And it carries over on the pitch, too.
He's a wide midfielder with a solid eye for goal—as evidenced by his double against West Ham in the FA Youth Cup in January. He has also scored three goals in seven games for Spurs' Under-21 squad in youth division play.
Just 18 years old, McEvoy still has a long way to go. It could be that he ends up like Townsend, loaned out multiple times before breaking into the first team. He might even be able to learn a thing or two learning from Townsend's experiences.
Or it could be that Villas-Boas confuses him with Bale and sells the youngster to Real Madrid while keeping Bale. They won't know the difference, right?