Difficult days for Real Madrid and Barça plunge La Liga into uncertainty

Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos are gone, while Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid will fancy their chances of back-to-back titles

Zinedine Zidane was the first one out, so early it feels like a lifetime ago. Then Sergio Ramos departed, the full-time whistle finally catching up with him. Now Lionel Messi has gone, flying back into Barcelona to find the contract he had come to sign was no longer there. Arguably the three most significant men in Spanish football over the past decade, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, all gone in a single summer. And Ronaldo had already left three years earlier.

This week, Ramos contacted Messi to say he could stay at his place if he liked. There was always respect there – well, not always – but it still feels a bit weird, after all those confrontations. Between them, they have played 1,449 games for the biggest clubs in Spain or anywhere, but no more. They have won 15 La Liga titles and eight Champions Leagues. No one has played more clásicos, 45 each. Symbols of the greatest rivalry of all, now they’re teammates. The captain of Real Madrid and the captain of Barcelona have both joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Related: Lionel Messi to PSG: the inside story of how a stunning deal was done

Related: Zinedine Zidane’s departure from Real Madrid seems to suit both parties | Sid Lowe

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