If we thought the gap might have narrowed on the reigning champions of Europe after losing one of the world’s best players, there was no sign of it here. While Cristiano Ronaldo might have been having a tough night - at a personal level anyway - with his new club, his old employers had no such troubles. They dismissed Roma with an effortless ease that suggested any rumours of their demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
Fans of Serie A could only watch and wonder what might have been if there had been any truth to those Luka Modric rumours this summer. Perhaps then, we could dream, the balance of power might have swung back in Italy’s favour. Instead, he delivered another beautifully crafted slap in the face to any such delusions.
If the Spaniards were smooth, the Giallorossi looked stilted. The great performances of last season in this competition seemed distant memories as Eusebio Di Francesco’s side tiptoed through the tie with trepidation. It was almost as if they knew - like the rest of us - that they would have to gather their points elsewhere in this group.
There is no shame, of course, in losing an away tie to one of the continent’s finest sides. It was more the manner of the defeat that was of concern. There was a bit of character lacking in this display - Daniele De Rossi and Robin Olsen excepted - that has to be a worry. Real Madrid are a team that do give you chances, but Roma rarely looked like taking them. A few months ago, you feel, they might have snapped up a couple of those opportunities.
Any side would take time to adapt to the loss of players like Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Alisson in the summer. That’s more than £100m of talent right there and it has showed so far this term. The capital club are just conceding too many goals and, as their skipper admitted, they have lost a bit of their “sting”. They will need to find it soon on all fronts.
Those seeking a positive note from the outcome in the Bernabeu will probably look at the rest of their Champions League group. They have got their toughest trip out of the way on day one with the more manageable Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow to come. Qualification was far from compromised in Spain, despite it feeling like a pretty miserable night by the time the final whistle blew.
It will take time for this Roma side to find its feet, but the early impression is that it might be a couple of steps down from the team of last year. The base is there to do better, but perhaps expectations will have to be scaled down a little.
There is a league campaign to be sorted out alongside the demands of the Champions League. The bad news is that nobody is going to give them any helping hands to get their house in order. But the good news is they won’t have to make away trips to many teams like Real Madrid again.