Real Madrid cannot live off the memory of Cristiano Ronaldo’s exploits as they begin their latest bid for Champions League glory, according to captain Sergio Ramos.
Madrid face Roma in their opening group-stage match on Wednesday, having lifted Europe’s premier competition in each of the past three seasons and four of the last five.
Ronaldo was a key component in all of those triumphs but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s decision to join Juventus has left Ramos leading a new-look Madrid under head coach Julen Lopetegui.
“Cristiano was here for an incredible period in Real Madrid’s history,” Ramos told a pre-match news conference.
“He broke almost every record, he marked an era.
“But we can no longer live from what Cristiano did. We have to start again every season.
“The hole he leaves is big but it’s been covered with other players who have a lot of ambition.
“We can compete at the same level as when Cristiano was here. We have a lot of affection for the great players who were here and we have to keep going.”
One player to step up impressively for club and country so far this season is Madrid youngster Marco Asensio.
Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco flagged up the 22-year-old attacking midfielder as the Madrid player he would most like to add to his own side and a future Ballon d’Or winner in an interview with AS.
Ramos is also a keen admirer of the former Real Mallorca player, seeing parallels with his own move to the Santiago Bernabeu from Sevilla in the early stages of his career.
“I’ve got a special affection with Marco because he came here very young. I can see myself in him from when I arrived here,” the Spain skipper said.
“I had the affection of others and it helped me. It’s time we put a little bit more pressure on him but not too much.
“He’s gone from being a promising young player to an important player, first choice, and that’s nice.
“Hopefully this can be an era for him and Real Madrid. We all believe in Marco. Hopefully he can keep going like this and have a great career with Real Madrid.”