Indeed, with neither the Catalan giants nor Real Madrid looking as if they’re in a financial position to truly challenge the nouveau riche clubs around Europe, it’s easy to cast dispersions on where the Spanish league is going at the moment.
While that may not necessarily be fair given the historic power and overall quality in the division, much of the global interest in modern football is – rightly or wrongly – driven by the presence of huge stars.
Of course, we are now firmly into the annual silly season and, with the transfer window deadline looming, such talk must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Still, there have been murmurings of the great Portuguese forward leaving Juventus a year before his contract expires for a while now and Madrid’s public pursuit of Kylian Mbappe could well be scuppered by Messi’s arrival in Paris.
Should Ronaldo return to Madrid for one last dance, under a manager in Carlo Ancelotti he has previously thrived under, the La Liga title race would take on an entirely different complexion.
A forward line consisting of Luis Suarez and Joao Felix is a promising one on paper for current champions Atletico Madrid but the former is another year older while the latter has struggled to adapt since his huge money move from Benfica.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are entering unknown territory.
Antonie Griezmann and Memphis Depay would certainly be the envy of most teams around Europe but the post-Messi era is littered with problems and Sergio Aguero’s injury issues look to be continuing.
With the relentless goalscoring Ronaldo offers back in the team, perhaps Ancelotti could complete the set and win his fifth major European league title.
How, then, would this Real Madrid look with Ronaldo back in the side?
Not entirely different to the one he left, to be honest.
Ancelotti is not a manager renowned for overseeing major rebuilds and his return to the Santiago Bernabeu seems to be an effort from Florentino Perez to get the most of major names in the twilights of their careers.
Gareth Bale may well have started the first league game of the season but the fact Eden Hazard impressed and doesn’t come with the baggage the Welshman does would surely see him operate on the right of the front three.
The midfield, meanwhile, somehow still shows little signs of changing. There will be games in which all of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric look too old. There will be games when all three look unplayable.
That – weirdly – is just how Real Madrid seem to work these days.
In defence, David Alaba looks a ready-made replacement for Sergio Ramos (if anyone truly can) and could operate alongside Nacho Fernandez following Raphael Varane’s departure while Marcelo’s dip in form should allow Ferland Mendy to overtake him at left-back.
A star-studded (if a little old) starting eleven, it’d be fascinating to see if it’d be enough to challenge towards the top of the game once again.