Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he is sure Cristiano Ronaldo will again win this year's Ballon d'Or award after the reigning world player of the year netted yet another hat trick in Sunday's 5-0 La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao.
Ronaldo opened the scoring on just two minutes, then added two more from close range late on [the third apparently finished inadvertently off his elbow] as troubled Athletic lost their eleventh consecutive game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Despite starting the 2014-15 season under an injury cloud the Portugal captain has scored 13 league goals over the first seven gameweeks, and his latest treble equalled the all-time La Liga record of 22 such hauls.
With such good form coming just as the voting season looms into view for the game's top individual award, the Blancos coach told his post-game news conference that he had no doubts Ronaldo was on his way to the third Ballon D'Or of his career.
"This year, I do not think there is much doubt about that matter," Ancelotti said. "I believe you can put on a bet. There is no doubt this year."
The Italian also praised an all-round attacking performance which featured two goals for Karim Benzema, and two right-footed assists from Gareth Bale.
"The three up front all played very well," Ancelotti said. "Cristiano scored three, Karim two, but Bale gave [two] assists and worked very well for the team. When the three work together it is fundamental for the team. The midfield also played well, moved the ball quickly. We just need consistency now. We were alert at dead-balls, we kept a clean sheet. It all went well."
Speaking on Canal Plus immediately after the final whistle Ronaldo himself said the season was just getting going, while admitting to having been very happy with how the game had gone.
"Maybe this was our best game of season," he said. "We are still improving, as the boss has said. We have things to improve, like set-pieces. The season is still just starting. We played a very good game, scoring five goals and not conceding any. We are very happy."
Ronaldo also had words of praise for strike partner Karim Benzema, not always the most popular character at the Bernabeu.
"I am very happy for Karim, he is the best centre-forward in La Liga, and one of the best in the world," he said. "We are very happy for him. Criticism is part of being a pro footballer. We must pass through this, it is part of it, but he is doing very well."
The only potential problem for Madrid from the game was a calf problem which saw Sergio Ramos substituted at the break. The centre-back is now a doubt for Spain's upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers in Luxembourg and Slovakia.
"[Ramos] had a problem with his right calf, he was not comfortable and we wanted to avoid any problems," Ancelotti said. "He will have tests tomorrow. His national team will evaluate it."