Real Madrid announced today that Gonzalo Higuain would have season ending knee surgery.
He has been sidelined since November, but it was anticipated that he would make his return in the next few weeks.
Now, he is out for the season and Real needs to find a replacement.
Higuain has been a huge part of Real's success over the past couple of seasons and his loss creates major issues for the club; even Jose Mourinho has admitted that the Higuain loss will impact the club.
Last season, Higuain led Real Madrid with 27 goals, second most in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo finished with 26 goals.
There were rumors as to whether the two players got along, but the bottom line was that on the field they were a goal scoring tandem that created nightmares for defenses. Both were very capable of scoring and both attracted attention from defenses.
Clearly Ronaldo is having an amazing season and scoring a ton of goals, but without Higuain, Real has no secondary scoring option.
This season, Higuain had seven goals in 12 games. He is still ninth in the league in scoring, despite having only played in 12 games.
The bigger issue, however, is that Higuain is second on the team in scoring. Real has no secondary scoring option. Angel di Maria has been decent, scoring five goals, but he's not a scoring threat like Higauin.
The strong second option may not be necessary for some games in La Liga, but is essential if Real wants to beat Barcelona or advance in the Champions League.
Can Real still win the title without Higuain?
It is, of course, debatable as to whether Real could win the title period since they were recently embarrassed by Barcelona.
But without Higuain, Real doesn't have a chance of winning the title.
As mentioned, Higuain was Real's only other scoring threat. Other players can score, but aren't as much of a constant threat as Higuain.
Without Higuain—the other scoring threat—good teams like Barcelona can focus all their attention on Ronaldo. All the attention will likely frustrate Ronaldo as he won't get any good opportunities on goal. As we have seen before, a frustrated Ronaldo doesn't pass the ball and tries to win on his own.
When this happens, Real can't beat teams like Barcelona.
With Higuain, Real would have to play some of their best soccer in order to beat Barcelona.
Without Higuain, Real can't win, as defenses can focus almost entirely on Ronaldo.
So who will fill the shoes and take over for Higuain? Here are the possible options:
1. Karim Benzema
This would be the ideal replacement as he is already a member of the team.
However, Benzema has been a disappointment during his entire tenure with Madrid. The team had high hopes for him, but he has failed to perform.
When he was initially brought in last season, it was anticipated that he would win the starting job from Higuain. Instead, Higuain proved that he was the better striker and had his best season.
Now that Higuain is injured, Benzema has had yet another opportunity to impress the club.
With just one goal this season, he is failing to impress anyone.
2. Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor surely wants this move to happen, as he is no longer in good graces at Manchester City and rarely sees any playing time.
There have been issues between Adebayor and the club management. This wouldn't be as big of an issue at Madrid, as managing egos has never been a problem for Mourinho since he has the biggest ego of anyone.
The bigger issue is whether Mourinho believes that Adebayor can still play and contribute to the club.
Real needs immediate help and it's uncertain if Adebayor could provide immediate help, as he is likely out of form with his lack of playing time.
3. Miroslav Klose
This site has already reported that there are rumors brewing about Real picking up Klose. This transfer seems to make the most sense to replace Higuain.
Klose is a little older than other players, but he is a proven scorer. Real doesn't need someone to create plays or make the runs through the midfield—they just need a smart striker that knows where to be and how to finish when given the opportunity.
Klose fits this description.
Surely now that the club has announced that Higauin is out there will be many rumors of possible replacements.
Real has never been afraid to make moves and will likely do whatever is necessary to get the players they need.
Which is good because if they want any chance of winning the title, some sort of move is necessary.