Now, the team that was built around Ronaldo and which has won three straight Champions League titles comes up against a strong Atletico team that won the Europa League and finished ahead of Madrid in the Spanish league.
"I do not want to make the mistake of talking about players who were here before", said Lopetegui. "We are convinced he has the experience and mentality to have a great season".
But Ramos has hit back, and has no worries about the future of Real Madrid even without Ronaldo.
"However, this is now in Madrid's past and we must focus on moving forward and continuing to create history, to keep getting better". The Welshman returned to top the popularity charts after a sensational performance against Liverpool in the Champions League final last season and that has shown Lopetegui that Bale has what it takes to perform at the highest levels. "While this team retains its spirit and hunger, mentality is more important than individual talent".
"I don't have a precise moment when I decided [to join]".
It delays Atletico Madrid fans from giving Courtois a visceral reception for the game, though they've already let him know what they think of him.
The UEFA showpiece occasion in the Estonian capital has also brought together Madrid chief Perez with Spanish football federation [RFEF] president Luis Rubiales for the first time since the pair clashed over Madrid hiring Lopetegui while he was under contract as national coach just before the summer's World Cup.
The biggest arrival at the Bernabeu so far this summer has been goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, a former Atletico Madrid player who now says he was a boyhood Madrid fan.