Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus may bring an end to Real Madrid’s dominance in Europe.
The Portuguese superstar led Los Blancos to a hat-trick of Champions League titles from 2016 through to 2018. It’s been an astonishing run.
But Ronaldo’s departure leaves the competition wide open this year.
Real will still be among the favourites, of course, but Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all stand a chance of lifting the trophy next June.
Real’s recent history means they have an intimidation factor and it will be interesting to see how they fare without Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.
The squad remains impressive. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Raphael Varane are all world-class players, while Thibaut Courtois is an upgrade at the goalkeeper position.
And they still have Sergio Ramos at the heart of the defence.
Ramos courted controversy in last season’s final when he injured Mohamed Salah, causing the Liverpool star to leave the game early.
The reaction was fierce, with Ramos sadly receiving death threats.
He was also booed when he played against England for Spain last Saturday.
Ramos divides opinion everywhere he goes but Peter Crouch has got it spot on about the centre-back in his column for the Daily Mail.
“I watched Sergio Ramos playing for Spain last Saturday and while he might be the man who everyone loves to hate, you cannot ignore his ability,” Crouch said.
“What a player. He knows how to win.”
Crouch is right. Ramos has won everything there is to win in football.
He’s upset many opposing players and rival fans over the years but there can be no arguing with his talent.
Crouch is concerned about Real Madrid’s hopes of winning another Champions League title, though.
“I just don’t feel they carry the same air of invincibility any longer,” he added.
The former Liverpool and Tottenham striker also believes the wait to see a Premier League side win the competition, which dates back to 2012, is nearly over.
“Our teams have arguably never been stronger than they are now,” Crouch added.
“If you put me on the spot, I’d say Manchester City will be the team to end our hoodoo.”