The 59th season of Europe's elite club competition begins on Tuesday with Bayern Munich defending their title boosted by the signing of Mario Goetze from last season's runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona looking for a fourth crown in nine seasons. (Agencies)
The managerial landscape has changed with Alex Ferguson, in charge of more Champions League games than any other coach, having left Manchester United and Jose Mourinho having ended his spell at Real for a second stint at Chelsea.
Real have replaced him with another double Champions League-winning coach in Carlo Ancelotti and the Italian's job will be to make sure new recruit Bale fits into his team.
The Wales winger's world record USD 134 million move from Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month eclipsed the USD 126.60 million Real paid Manchester United for Ronaldo in 2009 and adds firepower to the side even though they have lost Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil to Arsenal.
"They are two great players and I am happy because together they will help us be a better side," Ancelotti told a news conference on Friday.
"The squad has a lot of quality and I will try to field those who are best prepared. It's one of the best I have coached," he said.
The Bale deal was the fifth time since 2000 that Real have paid a world record fee for a player but in the 13 years since Luis Figo signed for USD 58.55 million, a few months after they clinched their eighth European Cup, Real have lifted the trophy just one more time.
That came in 2002 when Zinedine Zidane, who cost USD 84 million, hit a spectacular volley to secure a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.
Real, knocked out by Dortmund in the 2012-13 semi-finals, face Galatasaray, Juventus and FC Copenhagen in their 2013-14 group matches and are favourites to top the section despite having had to fight for a 5-3 aggregate quarter-final victory over the Turkish team last season.
Since the Spanish club last won the Champions League, arch-rivals Barcelona have been European champions three times and for much of the last decade they have been regarded as the best team in the world.
Whether their astonishing 7-0 aggregate defeat by Bayern in last season's semis marks the end of their dominant era or merely a temporary blip remains to be seen.
The 59th season of Europe's elite club competition begins on Tuesday with Bayern Munich defending their title boosted by the signing of Mario Goetze from last season's runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona looking for a fourth crown in nine seasons.