By Iain Rogers
Not content with setting a record of 17 goals for one edition of the Champions League last season, Cristiano Ronaldo is already well on the way towards breaking Lionel Messi’s La Liga best haul of 50 goals in one campaign.
Ronaldo netted his third hat-trick this term in Sunday’s 5-0 drubbing of a sorry Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu, taking his overall tally to an outrageous 13 in six appearances in 2014-15.
It was the Portuguese World Player of the Year’s 22nd treble for the European champions, equalling the La Liga record jointly held by Alfredo Di Stefano and Telmo Zarra, and putting him three clear of Barcelona forward Messi’s hat-trick haul.
On a night when he again appeared simply unstoppable, Ronaldo unselfishly set up Karim Benzema to score and Gareth Bale made two assists as Real’s formidable attacking trio known as ‘BBC’ destroyed the struggling Basque side.
“The three up front played fantastically,” coach Carlo Ancelotti purred at his post-match news conference.
“When they are in that kind of mood they are fundamental for the team,” added the Italian.
Ronaldo broke Messi’s four-year stranglehold on the FIFA Ballon d’Or when he was voted 2013 World Player of the Year and Ancelotti said he had little doubt the Portuguese would claim his second straight award and third overall when the 2014 winner is announced in January.
“This year, I don’t think there is much doubt,” Ancelotti said. “I don’t think there’s any point in even talking about it.”
Messi is the only player who can come close to challenging Ronaldo and the Argentina captain’s performance at the World Cup, when he led the South American nation to the final, may give him an edge.
Ronaldo, who was clearly struggling with injury, had a subdued finals in Brazil as Portugal failed to advance beyond the group stage.
One negative side to Sunday’s easy win for Real, which lifted them above champions Atletico Madrid into fourth, was an apparent injury to Sergio Ramos which forced the Spain centre back off at halftime.
“He was feeling discomfort in his right calf and we preferred to avoid any problems,” Ancelotti said.
“Tomorrow, tests will be conducted and then he will join up with the national team and they will evaluate his fitness.”
After the international break, Real’s next La Liga outing is at Levante on October 18 and they play at Liverpool in Champions League Group B four days later.