Real Madrid looking for options to replace scoring of James, Morata
With James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata already off the squad, Zinedine Zidane now needs to devise a plan to cover for the 31 times they scored for Real Madrid last season. Twenty-three of those goals happened in La Liga during the several occasions in which both players, key components of Real Madrid's "B team," shone against mid-to-lower table opposition.
League championships are often won by not dropping points against those type of teams, so the loss of two unhappy, but very productive, players -- with another demanding season in the making and a manager who believes in rotating as much as possible -- will be sorely felt.
The first alternative would consist of an increase in minutes -- and hopefully, goals scored -- for some squad members who had limited chances to play last season. The first name that comes to mind is Marco Asensio, scorer of only three goals in the past term and who has enjoyed just over 1,000 minutes.
Of course, Asensio's numbers should improve as his importance to the team increases, but he's not a natural scorer. During the 2015-16 season in Espanyol he managed to score only four times in almost 3,000 minutes of football, though he assisted teammates on 10 other goals. It could be expected that the immensely skilled youngster would get close to James' eight La Liga goals next season, but he won't be anywhere near Morata's 15.
Lucas Vazquez disappointed many last term, but should also see his playing time increase after the summer with the current squad configuration. Similar to Asensio, he's not a prolific striker, but two goals in almost 1,400 La Liga minutes look well below what the young Galician should deliver.
Of course, more should be also expected from Karim Benzema. In his case, the low numbers have nothing to do with lack of playing time, but with his finishing. Always complimented because of the way he understands Cristiano Ronaldo's game, Real Madrid's No. 9 should score more than 11 times in 29 La Liga matches, even if he defers to Ronaldo in certain situations.
His other partner in the BBC acronym, Gareth Bale, also had a below-par season, mostly due to injuries. Seven goals in 19 matches show plenty of upside, as the Welsh forward will start the new term in top shape and with less competition for a place in the starting 11.
Other players can chip in with a few goals here and there. For instance, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric always look more menacing on offense than they actually are. Four goals scored by the duo in last season's Liga is very scarce for the talent they have.
Indeed, Real Madrid have enough talent to compete for every tournament and score as many goals as they did last season with the players currently on their squad. However, it would be hard to deny that their supporters expect more. Something extra. A new addition that would become the cherry on the cake for what so far looks like an outstanding summer in terms of affordable reinforcements and profitable exits.
With the fee Real Madrid received for Morata from Chelsea, added to the smaller amount of cash from the loan of James and the very likely sale of Danilo, Real Madrid have a decent sum to put together a bid for the prospect most European clubs would like to sign.
Kylian Mbappe is the name that supporters, teammates and even Zidane want to see at the Santiago Bernabeu. The gifted Frenchman is the breath of fresh air that Benzema and Bale need in order to feel real competition for their spots in the lineup, the rare kind of player who makes a sizable investment worth the cash. His potential is huge, and he can learn from the best in Madrid, both from a squad of winners and a coaching legend.
Assuming that the squad won't change after these exits, Real Madrid supporters can feel very confident in the upcoming season. However, the addition of Mbappe would turn that confidence into something closer to exhilarating joy. It's time for the president to make a move, one that could be remembered for years to come.
Eduardo Alvarez covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @alvarez.