A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Who would have thought that any team could be improved by shedding one of the greatest players of all time?
It's true that Cristiano Ronaldo has inspired Real Madrid to crazy heights over the past decade but the transfer of his ego and his entourage has brought a whole new lease of life to those who merely played a supporting act in recent years.
Imagine a dance floor where the prima donna insisted on using every inch. No matter how well you had mastered your best moves, you weren't allowed to shake your stuff in case it over-shadowed the headline performer.
Gareth Bale hasn't said a word but his actions speak volumes. The Welshman is finally flourishing in the absence of Ronaldo. It is like an enlightenment. I suspect Bale decided last spring that is was make or break time.
When he wasn't selected from the start of the Champions League final it was the turning point. He clearly decided "Budge over CR7, this is now my time!"
The two goals in Kiev topped ten in his final twelve games of the Liga season. This season he's added three in four domestic games and opened his Champions League account.
Bale is basking in the extra space to express his talents but he's not alone. Karim Benzema, resigned to being a backing singer, is now front of the stage belting out a tune.
Isco, a frustrated genius can twirl now that he's unshackled. For almost a decade nobody got a chance to take a free kick if Ronaldo was on the field; Isco has already weighed in with two free kick goals.
We've all known that Marco Asensio will be special but his progress has been restricted. Now that he is guaranteed a space in the team and space on the field, he's flourishing. He's created three goals in four games for Real Madrid, recorded a hat-trick of assists for Spain and his first international goal against Croatia.
The whole picture is one of harmony. The 'ballers' are all getting an opportunity to express themselves and don't have to operate in anyone's shadow.
The new coach Julen Lopetgui has an impossible act to follow in thrice Champions League winner Zinedine Zidane but he is instilling a calm togetherness at the Bernabéu.
There was concern if the world would still revolve if Ronaldo wasn't at the centre of it. We are getting the answer. New stars are beginning to shine, there's another galaxy out there.