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Cristiano remains Real's driving force


Cristiano Ronaldo scored another four on Saturday, overtaking Telmo Zarra in LaLiga's list of all-time marksmen. Beyond Zarra, of course, remains Leo Messi, who's been in this league since prior to the Portuguese's arrival, having cut his teeth here. So, yes, Ronaldo has surpassed Zarra in fewer games; but that must also be viewed from the perspective of a simple fact: Messi began life in Spain still young and raw, growing into the player he is in this division. CR7, meanwhile, came here the finished article and with a Ballon d'Or on his CV, after a significant period of development in the Premier League. Either way, though, both have moved past a man whose record stood for years - years in which some tremendous players graced this top flight. That underlines the extraordinary period we're in.

Cristiano hit four in succession for Real Madrid in the space of just 26 minutes. A quartet of strikes that turned a hitherto uncertain afternoon (split between one header onto the bar for Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas and one into the net by Real's Pepe) into a goal fest for the hosts. In the end they racked up seven, with welcome late scoring contributions from subs Jesé Rodríguez and Gareth Bale. A stunning result, one that counts for little in a LaLiga title race that they're already out of, but that at the same time fuels the fires of their Champions League quest. The 'Undécima-optimist' rule of three would go: if Celta, who are certainly no dummies, can ship seven at the Santiago Bernabéu, shouldn't at least three be doable regardless of the opposition?

Anything is possible as long as Cristiano Ronaldo is in the mood. The atmosphere around the capital club is so highly charged that the supporters even came to whistle the forward for a pass played to nobody, delivered in the mistaken belief that a colleague was there. The 31-year-old netted his first shortly after that, and celebrated with that unpleasant gesture of pointing to his ear. Both acts reflect the state of agitation that the frustration of missing out on another league championship has caused; but neither is it Cristiano's fault, nor is he right to respond in such fashion. He is far and away the best thing about this Real Madrid, and any prospect of rescuing their season comes down to him, to his attacking thrust and to his goals. Whether they come in ones - or in fours.