Cristiano Ronaldo is going to win Real Madrid the Champions League again. And he is going to win himself another Ballon d’Or.
The Real Madrid striker is in arguably the best form of his career after scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League semi-final against city rivals Atletico Madrid.
In his last three Champions League matches against Bayern Munich and Atletico, Ronaldo had scored a remarkable eight goals, including back-to-back hat-tricks for the first time in Champions League history.
Ronaldo’s brilliance has Real Madrid knocking on the door of their third Champions League final in four years and his hat-trick left Zinedine Zidane in the familiar position of searching for superlatives to describe Real Madrid’s talisman.
But the Real Madrid boss was also keen to praise a superb collective showing in Tuesday’s 3-0 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.
Ronaldo headed the opening goal after 10 minutes and fired home an emphatic second 17 minutes from time, before claiming the matchball as Atletico pressed for a route back into the semi-final tie.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner downed Bayern Munch with a treble in the previous round and now has seven Champions League hat-tricks to his name, apparently rendering next week’s return at the Vicente Calderon a formality.
“Cristiano is a goalscorer. He’s unique,” said Zidane.
“All the players were brilliant. One lad comes off and another one comes on and plays a great game.
“We knew what we had to do from the off and we played the game we wanted to.”
Zidane singled out playmaker Isco for praise – the Spain international taking his excellent form from recent La Liga wins over Sporting Gijon and Deportivo La Coruna onto the big stage as his boss reshaped the European champions’ forward line in the injury-enforced absence of Gareth Bale.
“Isco played as a number 10 and was fantastic. We then had width with [Lucas] Vazquez and [Marco] Asensio when they came on,” said Zidane, who does not want to take progression to back-to-back finals for granted.
“In a defensive sense we were brilliant too. I’m very happy with everyone’s work.
“When you look at the game and the scoreline it means we played a great game. We still have the second leg. We will have to work hard and fight for it. We will suffer at their place for sure.
“We’re content, very happy and we can enjoy it, but we still have a long way to go in the Champions League and LaLiga.
“I don’t think that we’re euphoric and imagining ourselves in the final. There’s no such thing as an easy game and we need to play a perfect game at their place in order to go through.”
“I’m lucky to have these players. We try to play our football and enjoy ourselves. It works because we have great players with great attitudes.”