The Real Madrid man has put the local press in a tizz after sending Portugal to Brazil with a stunning hat-trick against Sweden on Tuesday, writes Tim Stannard...
Utterly gobsmacked: the sensation felt by anyone watching Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Sweden in Solna, one of the most genuinely epic performances by a footballer in recent years. Heck, even King Zlatan himself appeared to applaud it.
For those who barely dip a toe into La Liga and tend to catch highlights in the Champions League, it was perhaps one of the few opportunities to see the Real Madrid man in full flow as he single-handedly dragged his country to the World Cup in Brazil with four goals in two games.
In sunny Spain no talk of Ronaldo is permitted without the background noise of the Ballon d’Or, a trinket of curiosity once handed out by the French press and now the most important football event on the planet.
The topic that keeps sports media busy for months on end and tests the fragile patience of LLL to breaking point on an annual basis, has grown to gargantuan proportions since the rise of Messi vs Ronaldo and the unseemly Clásico politics of La Liga. It has led to the frustrating situation where a compliment in favour of one immediately suggests an denigrating slur towards the other.
The chatter was already rife in the Madrid camp that this time, this time, this time, Ronaldo was deserving of the Ballon d’Or. Messi, they said, has been a little flat since the start of the new campaign, and Franck Ribéry simply isn't as good as the Portuguese poacher, despite his achievements with Bayern Munich. Ronaldo’s hat-trick in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier has turned talk up to notch 15.
Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo’s performance has blown away all other news in the Madrid press - even Spain’s 1-0 friendly defeat to South Africa in a troubled week for the national side. “Is there anyone better than Ronaldo?” asks the front cover of Wednesday’s AS, with the response of “probably not” being implied.
“Ribéry is tremendous,” argues the paper’s editor, Alfredo Relaño, “he made his mark in Bayern’s successes... but nothing like Ronaldo.” The paper also reports on a story from Mundo Deportivo that the voting window for the Ballon d’Or has been extended.
Tomás Roncero is in epic mode, paying tribute to Ronaldo's achievements when the stakes were so high. “A hat-trick in enemy territory with a World Cup in play. In Portugal, they are going to make him a street, an avenue, a monument, a chain of restaurants, a theme park,” writes the AS columnist.
Marca have awarded the fantastic footballer with the most honoured of titles: MegaCrack. “No other player today is close to his level,” says the paper, on a performer who has scored 13 goals in six games since Sepp Blatter’s comedy impression of the player in Oxford.
Ideally, Ronaldo’s night in Sweden should give closure for the Madrid press on the Ballon d’Or prize. The three goals do not mean he is any closer to winning the honour - an awful lot relies on fellow professionals ticking boxes correctly and in a timely manner - but it should give comfort to the idea that no matter which name is read out in January, Ronaldo is the best player on the planet. It's a truth so self-evident it doesn’t need anyone else to ratify it. Especially not an unholy alliance between the dastardly French and FIFA.