Manchester City have confirmed the injury Gabriel Jesus suffered at Bournemouth on Monday night was a fractured metatarsal, and though the club have yet to put a date on the expected recovery time the fear is growing that the Brazilian teenager could be out for the rest of the season.
The normal time for recovery and recuperation from a metatarsal injury is between two and three months, so at best Jesus might be looking at a return in mid-April, though rather than rush him back for a handful of games at the end of the season it is more likely the club will err on the side of caution and give him all the time he needs.
The 19-year-old was withdrawn after 15 minutes of the game at Dean Court after he fell to the ground in obvious pain, and from the way he removed his boot and pointed at his foot a metatarsal fracture was suspected at an early stage.
City delayed making a statement until they had received a doctor's report, though by that stage on Tuesday afternoon photographs had already emerged of the player leaving a clinic on crutches and wearing the same sort of protective boot that Wayne Rooney and David Beckham were given when they suffered a similar injury.
In just five games since joining City at Christmas the Brazilian forward had not only scored three goals but succeeded in displacing Sergio Agüero from the team. The Argentine came off the bench at Bournemouth as a replacement and will now be favourite to start up front against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Saturday and against Monaco in the Champions League the following week.
Pep Guardiola will be disappointed at losing a player he clearly felt had justified his selection ahead of the club's leading scorer, though at least the City manager was careful to avoid ostracising Agüero when admitting he might be minded to leave Manchester at the end of the season. "We want to keep both players, both will be important," Guardiola said diplomatically when Agüero lost his place. "I don't want to sell him, I know Sergio's strengths."
Agüero played well enough to claim City's second goal at Bournemouth, even if it was officially credited to the home side's Tyrone Mings, and in some ways Guardiola must consider himself fortunate to have such a powerful and proven replacement for Jesus.
With Agüero in the side City put together 10 successive victories at the start of the season after all, and some felt the striker was unlucky to lose his place so quickly after Jesus arrived. Yet Guardiola practically admitted at the weekend he preferred the fluidity and movement possible when Jesus played with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane up front.
While Agüero is a formidable finisher, he principally gets on the end of moves and Guardiola is not thought to favour such a narrow point of attack. City were briefly more expansive and unpredictable without him, but only because Jesus made such an immediate impact. Now it is back to Plan A, and how well both Agüero and Guardiola can make that operate is likely to define the rest of City’s season.