Surging Cristiano Ronaldo Primed to Lead Real Madrid to Champions League Title

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his sides opening goal during the Copa del Rey semi final second leg match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou on February 26, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Real Madrid has won its last five matches and is unbeaten in its last seven in large part because of the play of world-class forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has not only led by example with his production on the pitch (seven goals and an assist) over the club's remarkable stretch of play, but he's done so with some clutch play—highlighted by his two goals against rival Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semis last month and most recently his 69th-minute match-winner against former club Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League.

The clutch second-half goal gave Madrid the win, eliminated United and now has Ronaldo's bunch destined for its first Champions League crown since 2002. After outlasting Sir Alex Ferguson's English powerhouse, Los Blancos must be the favorite to win it all. 

Madrid is still way behind Barca in the race to win the Spanish La Liga, so Jose Mourinho's squad would be wise to focus a majority of its energy and focus to the Champions League schedule. 

Barcelona may be a lock to celebrate another La Liga title in 2013 (potentially its fourth in five years), but Lionel Messi and company have already been eliminated from UEFA Champions League contention. Just as it was in 2008 with Ferguson and United, it's Ronaldo's time. 

Los Blancos are trending up at the ideal time and Ronaldo's surge is largely responsible. At age 28, he's entering the prime of his career and it's nearly impossible to argue otherwise. The Portuguese international recorded 60 goals in 55 appearances for Madrid a season ago and is on a similar pace in 2012-13.

The bottom line is this: Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player left in the Champions League tournament. But beyond his goalscoring ability, Ronaldo's ability to fire his team up will power Madrid to the club's 10th European Cup. 

After Tuesday's dramatic win at Old Trafford against his former club, the stage is set for Ronaldo to take over the last three rounds of the UEFA Champions League and deliver a title in just his fourth season with the Spanish juggernaut.


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter