Following a disappointing start to La Liga for Cristiano Ronaldo, critics were of the many suggesting that the three-time Ballon d'Or winner was in a state of decline.
His failure to score in either of Real Madrid's opening two games raised questions over the 30-year-old's ability to deliver as prolifically as he had done in previous seasons, yet the Portuguese answered in the only way he knows how - to break more records and score goals.
Against Sporting Gijon and Real Betis, Ronaldo missed a number of guilt-edged chances, yet Rafael Benitez insisted it was only a matter of time before his star man would find the back of the net; after all, Ronaldo has completely redefined goal scoring standards in the modern age, alongside rival Lionel Messi.
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The Portugal international claimed his first of the season just minutes into Los Blancos' clash with Espanyol over the weekend, latching onto a sumptuous Luka Modric pass curling the ball past Pau Lopez. The goal must have relieved so much pressure for the famed no.7.
Ronaldo then scored his second and third to complete a 13-minute hat-trick, converting a penalty and a fine Gareth Bale cross. The forward struck twice more in the second half, finishing the game with five goals and an assist for Karim Benzema.
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In doing so, Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s top scorer in La Liga by surpassing Alfredo di Stefano’s 227 goals and Raul’s 228. To put this into context, Di Stefano amassed his tally from 1953 and 1966, whilst Raul took 550 matches to reach the record. In comparison, Ronaldo has reached 230 goals in a staggering 203 fixtures stretching over seven seasons.
Benitez will no doubt feel relieved that the Portuguese is off the mark and although many of his goals were ones that you would expect him to finish, the manager will be pleased by his perseverance to get into the centre-forward position.
The new boss encourages Ronaldo to take up a central role whenever possible, whilst players such as Bale and Benzema create space for the Portuguese to take his chances as seen on Saturday.
Whether he was Madrid’s best player is up for debate, though - Bale was massively involved in five of the six goals against Espanyol - but irrespective, Ronaldo stole the limelight not just for breaking more records, but by showing that at 30-years-old he is still far from finished.
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