Real Madrid weren't ready for this. Just ask Carlo Ancelotti.
"We can't be happy that he's leaving, but we must respect his decision," the Real Madrid manager said ahead of Sunday's season finale against Athletic Bilbao. "He has earned the right to decide what he wants to do. It was a surprise for everyone. It was only this morning that we found out. He told us about his decision, and I told him I respected his decision and that I was grateful for all he'd done with me."
The "he" in question, of course, is defending Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema. The club expected their center-forward to stick around for one more season, but the rumored €400 million, two-year contract was too much to pass up. He'll join the last superstar Real Madrid had to replace, Cristiano Ronaldo, in the Saudi Pro League.
And so, all of a sudden, arguably the premier destination in world soccer has a massive hole at the premium position in their starting lineup. And as soon as Madrid makes whatever big-money move they'll have to make, it'll have ripple effects across all of Europe. So who might Madrid bring in? And what would that mean for everyone else?
What was Benzema at Real Madrid, anyway?
On Sunday, Ancelotti spoke vaguely about the kind of player Madrid might want to bring in to replace Benzema: "We want to sign a striker that can score goals and link up well -- so, a striker that plays football well."
It sounds silly -- "a striker that plays football well" -- but that's what Benzema was.