Sergio Agüero could barely have been in better form having scored seven goals in eight matches this season and narrowing in Manchester City’s all-time record but a car crash in Amsterdam has left the striker facing two months out with a broken rib.
The 29-year-old was travelling to the airport after watching Maluma perform on one of his days off when the taxi swerved off the road and into a pole.
Agüero will be assessed by City’s medical team on Friday but has already confirmed that he has suffered a broken rib.
“The taxi driver did not see the curve and when he skidded, we hit the pole,” the Argentina striker told Radio Metro.
“I broke my rib, now I’m resting. It hurts me badly. I’ll be discharged in a little while.”
Quite what Agüero was doing in Amsterdam on a Thursday night when Manchester City face Chelsea at the weekend is another question but one that Pep Guardiola seemed relaxed about when asked on Friday.
“The first impression is he has broken a rib but the number of days he will be out, I don’t know. A day off is to be happy … I am a trainer who doesn’t want to train every day because [the players] need to rest, mentally and physically.”
While the news is a blow to City, it is also disappointing for Argentina ahead of next week’s critical World Cup qualifiers. La Albiceleste host Peru next Thursday before concluding away to Ecuador with qualification still up in the air.
Given Agüero’s form and familiarity with the squad, many had suggested that the Manchester City striker would reclaim the number nine role from Mauro Icardi.
So what now for Argentina?
Agüero didn’t feature for a single minute in Argentina’s last World Cup qualifiers but with Mauro Icardi failing to score, the number nine spot looked up for grabs ahead of the last double-header.
Presumably Icardi remains Jorge Sampaoli’s first choice given the Inter captain was given only two games and after being starved of opportunities against Uruguay, could on another day have had a hat-trick against Venezuela.
However, with Peru visiting La Bombonera next Thursday (rather than River Plate’s El Monumental), there are many calling for local hero Darío Benedetto to get a chance. Last season’s top scorer in Argentina as Boca lifted the title, the 27-year-old has five goals in five games already this term and made his international debut under Sampaoli.
Readers of ‘Ole!,’ Argentina’s sports daily, voted on this subject and between the choice of Icardi or Benedetto, 81% of the 50,000 went with the Boca man.
Sampaoli is yet to add the Argentine-based players to his squad but Benedetto is almost certain to be among them.
Who might Sampaoli turn to from Europe to replace Agüero though?
The biggest loser of the change in management and the eventual inclusion of Icardi was Gonzalo Higuaín, who lost his place in the recent squads, but the Juventus centre-forward could be an option once more.
A game changing substitute for Juve in the Champions League this week, Higuaín is a consistent goal scorer at club level but despite scoring 31 goals in 69 appearances for Argentina isn’t trusted by a large number of supporters following high-profile misses in major finals.
Sampaoli has always insisted that the door isn’t closed on Higuaín but may look elsewhere.
Which would likely be between two options, both of which have been in recent squads. Joaquin Correa was perhaps a little unfortunate to be left out of this Argentina squad but is well liked by Sampaoli after working together at Sevilla and in excellent form. The 23-year-old can play centrally as a striker but also provide the versatility to move out wide.
More of a traditional number nine option would be Lucas Alario, who recently completed a transfer to Bayer Leverkusen and made a goal scoring debut at the weekend. The 24-year-old was a prolific goal scorer for River Plate and earned an Argentina call-up under Edgardo Bauza so may yet get another shot.
It isn’t clear what Sampaoli will do ahead of Thursday’s match but there is no margin for error.