Madrid, Spain | AFP |
“Goals are in my DNA,” concluded Cristiano Ronaldo after spearheading a famous Real Madrid comeback with a hat-trick to see off Wolfsburg and reach the Champions League semi-finals for a record sixth straight season.
The three-time World Player of the Year’s self-appraisals are rarely humble.
It is just six weeks since he called out his teammates for not matching his standards in a 1-0 defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid.
Yet, it was hard to argue with Ronaldo’s logic as he snapped back at critics that his barrel load of goals haven’t come when Real have needed them most.
On the night coach Zinedine Zidane’s admitted Madrid’s season was “on the line”, Ronaldo’s treble overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit in a 3-0 win over the Germans.
“Considering this has been a bad season for me it has not been that bad,” he added after taking his tally for the season in all competitions to 46.
“People can criticise me, but I just keep on going and the numbers are there for all to see.”
The numbers are indeed spectacular. Ronaldo has now scored at least 45 goals in his last six seasons for Madrid.
Three more against Wolfsburg on Tuesday made him the first player ever to score three hat-tricks in the same Champions League season.
And he is now just one goal away from matching his own record of 17 in a Champions League season when Madrid ended a 12-year wait to win their 10th European Cup two years ago.
There was no holding back in the Madrid press’ displays of affection for Ronaldo on Wednesday’s front pages.
“How great you are,” ran sports daily Marca.
Meanwhile, AS led with “how am I not going to love you,” alongside a picture of Ronaldo celebrating his third.
“Little-by-little you are valuing me,” Ronaldo responded when asked why despite 359 goals in just 342 games to streak ahead as the top scorer in Madrid’s history, he still isn’t universally loved in a season where he has even been whistled by his own fans.
“I am used to criticism. In Spain it is like this and it doesn’t affect me.
“I am still young, but these things don’t affect me at 31.”
Having moved the wrong side of 30 there has been plenty of speculation that Madrid may consider cashing in on their biggest asset before his valuation plummets towards the end of his contract in 2018.
Yet, for those still in need of reminding, Ronaldo left another indelible night for his legacy with a new first as Madrid overturned a first leg deficit in the Champions League for the first time in 12 years.
“Cristiano deserved a magic night,” said Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
“He showed what he is, which is the best player in the world,” added Zidane.
The debate over whether Ronaldo or Barcelona rival Lionel Messi deserves the title of the world’s best has raged for a decade.
But despite his critics, and the presence of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Ronaldo left no doubt he remains Madrid’s number one and will be badly missed once he is gone.