Ronaldo hunger may save Real season

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MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo's appetite for success is keeping Real Madrid's La Liga title hopes alive this season.

The Portuguese forward led Real's fightback from a goal down at Real Mallorca on Wednesday, rattling in his first La Liga hat-trick to take his season tally to 25, as his side won 4-1.

He has scored seven goals in the five games since Real lost 2-0 at home to Barcelona last month, and helped his side stay hot on the heels of the champions. They lie one point behind Pep Guardiola's team with two matches remaining.

"He's extraordinary. He has played his most important game of the season, he rescued us," Real director general Jorge Valdano told Spanish television after the game.

"(But) it isn't right to talk about dependency on him. In the two months when he wasn't with us the team were capable of making themselves leaders."

Real exited the King's Cup when he was absent, but fell at the last 16 stage of the Champions League when he was on the pitch, and coach Manuel Pellegrini is under pressure to deliver the league title.

Pellegrini's future in the post remains a hot topic in the local media, and winning La Liga may not be enough to save him, but he has a perfect ally in Ronaldo.

"He is a fundamental figure for Real Madrid. His spirit is contagious for the players," the Chilean said.

"At present Real Madrid is the spirit of Ronaldo."

Ronaldo cost Real a world record 94 million euros, and he could go some way towards paying some of that investment back if he can lead the team past Barca by the end of next week.

"It's my first year here and I want to be a champion," Ronaldo told Spanish television.

"We are hopeful Barca will drop points against Sevilla and that we will win at home. I don't see us as champions yet but I am hopeful we'll achieve it in the end. I want to win a title."

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