Lionel Messi is back in Argentina as he looks forward to return to competitive football in the New Year, Neymar sat out Barcelona’s win at Getafe with a suspension, and Gareth Bale remained in the Spanish capital nursing a calf injury as Real Madrid beat Valencia.
It all amounted to setting the stage for Cristiano Ronaldo to finish the year as top dog—the year which he hopes will see him crowned with the Ballon d’Or next month.
However, he didn’t end 2013 quite as emphatically as he deserved to on Sunday night at the Mestalla.
He was well marshaled by a suitably impressive performance from Valencia’s defence, and as a result, he failed to influence the game in the same way he has done on so many occasions during the past 12 months.
Despite that, it goes some way to explaining how much of a phenomenon he is that he still managed to ensure his name was on the scoresheet.
The Portuguese international scored Los Blancos’ second goal of the 3-2 victory, heading home a pinpoint Angel di Maria cross after the Argentine had wonderfully opened the scoring on the night.
His all-round game was actually impressive, though.
While he only managed to have three shots on goal during the match—he averages over seven per match normally—he did manage to provide three key passes for his teammates, according to WhoScored.
One moment in the second half demonstrated his work rate too, something he’s often maligned for, as he tracked the run of his international colleague Joao Pereira and read his step-overs to dispossess him with the score locked at 2-2.
But it wasn’t to be Ronaldo, for once, who stole the show for Carlo Ancelotti’s side; that honour fell to 20-year-old Jese Rodriguez, who saw his shot creep inside Vicente Guatia’s post inside the final 10 minutes.
However, Ronaldo’s goal had already added to an extraordinary year.
It was his 59th goal for Real Madrid this season, which helped him surpass the club record of 58 which he set previously in 2012.
It was also his 38th goal of La Liga in 2013, 10 more than Lionel Messi, who only managed 28 in an injury-struck year, and 11 more than Diego Costa, who has enjoyed a real breakout calendar year for Atletico Madrid.
The numbers say it all, and even though he would have like to close the calendar year with a bang, he didn’t need to steal the show at the Mestalla for people to realise it’s been the year of Ronaldo.
His goals in the last few months have kept Madrid from falling further back in the title race and helped them progress with ease in the Champions League, where he set a new record for the number of goals scored in the group stage.
If he can replicate this past year when the calendar ticks into 2014, then Los Blancos have every chance of making a push for the title. Who knows, maybe they’ll even clinch the mythical La Decima at long last.