LaLiga is underway. Today, Real Madrid and Barcelona kick off their campaigns, with the experience of the Spanish Super Cup still fresh in the memory. Real were the better side in both legs, triumphing 5-1 on aggregate despite their chief match-winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, playing just 24 minutes. They gave a demonstration of their immense squad depth, leaving out Casemiro, Isco and Gareth Bale (who's coming under ever greater pressure from Marco Asensio's inexorable growth) in the second leg. In the closing stages of the return, they also showed off two new faces with a bright future in Theo Hernández and Dani Ceballos. Zinedine Zidane has the complete respect of his squad, the fans and even Florentino Pérez, who - left with little other option by the job Zizou's doing - has just extended his deal.
Real Madrid are in their strongest position for over half a century
Real Madrid are fresh from winning the Spanish title, the Champions League and the European and domestic Super Cups in pretty much one fell swoop, and boast a rock-solid squad in which everyone has plenty to offer. If we're nitpicking, I'd say they could come to miss Pepe and Álvaro Morata (less so James Rodríguez; don't get me wrong, he's a splendid player, but his position is well covered). It's not yet 31 August, though. Los Blancos are in as strong a position as I can remember going back almost 60 years. They have young players, they have the holder of the Ballon d'Or, they have solutions, they have internal harmony, they have a sensible leader in the dugout and they have money to sign Kylian Mbappé if they resolve to do so. James and Morata have left the Bernabéu coffers brimming.
Barcelona seem to be regressing with every passing year
Barcelona, on the other hand, seem to be going backwards every year. As I watched Lucas Digne come on on Wednesday, I couldn't help but think of all the transfer flops they've amassed in recent times. Luis Suárez and Neymar have been successes, but the latter has now left. Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti have worked out. As for the dozen or so others, it's hard to see a single useful presence. Piece by piece, Pep Guardiola's all-conquering group has broken apart (due to age, such as Xavi and, before too long, Andrés Iniesta, or because they were allowed to leave, like great-white hope Thiago, or Pedro), the flow of talent coming through in-house has suddenly dried up, their signings aren't working, and Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets have found themselves at loggerheads with the board. Yes sir, this looks like a season that'll confirm the power shift in LaLiga.