Cristiano Ronaldo cannot stop scoring. With his third hat-trick in four games and an assist for Karim Benzema as well, the Portuguese led Real Madrid to a 5-0 thrashing of Athletic Club at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday and moved into serious contention for a third Ballon d'Or. At this rate, it is hard to see how anyone will stop him.
Ronaldo headed home within three minutes to give Madrid an early lead, added another midway through the first half following a Gareth Bale ball from the right and sealed his hat-trick right at the end as he turned in Pepe's shot with his hip.
It was his 22nd hat-trick in La Liga for Madrid, equalling a long-standing Primera Division mark jointly held by Real legend Alfredo Di Stefano and Athletic's Telmo Zarra - and it was perhaps appropriate that he should draw level with the pair in a meeting between their two sides.
Cristiano began the season with 19 triples in La Liga, but hit a 20th in the 8-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna on September 20, added another (which included two penalties and four goals in total) in the 5-1 win over Elche three days later and secured his third on Sunday.
Ronaldo showed his unselfish side, too, as he opted to square for Benzema instead of shooting when he was on a hat-trick. It was a performance of insatiable hunger, passion and commitment, but also maturity.
Real remain four points behind Barcelona in La Liga, but have recovered from their shaky start to the current campaign and are now up to fourth place in the table.
"It was a good win and we played well," Ronaldo said afterwards. "We scored five and we didn't concede, so we're happy." And on his hat-trick, he added: "It's another ball for my museum in Madeira."
Player Stats — Cristiano Ronaldo
"For the year he has had, Ronaldo deserves the Ballon d'Or," Benzema said afterwards. And coach Carlo Ancelotti added: "This year, there is little doubt - the Ballon d'Or is for Cristiano Ronaldo."
After claiming the prize last January, Cristiano himself said: "I want to come back here next year and win it for the third time in my career."
If he can continue his current fantastic form for the remainder of 2014, there is every chance.