Ronaldo on his way to immortality at Real Madrid
REAL MADRID 5
(Cristiano Ronaldo 2, 55, 88, Karim Benzema 41, 69)
ATHLETIC BILBAO 0
For Cristiano Ronaldo, scoring hat-tricks is no longer an achievement these days - it has become the norm.
Against Athletic Bilbao yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Real Madrid superstar bagged his third treble this season, equalling another major record and moving closer towards another one.
It was the Portuguese World Player of the Year's 22nd hat-trick 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 Lionel Messi's hat-trick haul.
With 13 goals in just six matches this season, he is also well on his way towards smashing Messi's best La Liga haul of 50 goals in one campaign.
On an outing 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."
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 next 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, where he led the South American nation to the final, may give him an edge.
Ronaldo, who was struggling with injury, had a subdued Finals in Brazil as Portugal crashed out at the group stage.
Former Spain international Marcelino believes Ronaldo beats Messi as he is the "most complete player in the history of football".
The 43-year-old told Sky Sports: "He can score goals with his head, with his feet. He's as strong as anyone; as powerful as anyone.
"He looks like he wants to keep improving. He wants to score and add more numbers to his statistics.
"There's been this debate over Messi and Ronaldo.
"Messi has been fantastic but Ronaldo, and I keep saying it, is the most complete player ever.
"If the (Ballon d'Or) were awarded now, he would get it."
Ronaldo has been crowned the best player in the world twice, with Messi winning four times.
One negative side to the easy win for Real, which lifted them above champions Atletico Madrid into fourth, was an apparent injury to Sergio Ramos, forcing the Spain centre back off at half-time.
"He was feeling discomfort in his right calf and we preferred to avoid any problems," Ancelotti said.
"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 Oct 18. They visit Liverpool in the Champions League four days later.
- Wire Services.