Cristiano Ronaldo's Top 10 Moments of 2012
It's been a pretty decent year for Cristiano Ronaldo. He might not have smashed Gerd Müller's 1972 record for goals in a calendar year, but he did win the league. And the Supercup.
He even picked up a gong from the queen of Spain; Best Iberoamerican Athlete of the Year for 2011.
The Champions League may have eluded Real, but it provided some memorable moments for Ronaldo. Here are the Portuguese winger's top 10 achievements in 2012.
February: El Taconazo
In a tight league match against Rayo Vallecano, Real was having a bit of an off day.There were 33 fouls during the match, eight yellow cards and a straight red for Michu. Rayo was not in the mood for rolling over.
It was going to take something special to break the home side's resistance. In came in the 53rd minute.
Ronaldo's cheeky back heel maintained Real's 10-point lead over Barcelona and inched the Portuguese one goal ahead of Leo Messi in the Pichichi race for Liga top scorer. Not a bad day at the office.
April: Derby Treble
As usual, Atletico Madrid was doing OK going into the Madrid derby. Not brilliantly, but at the very least not a dysfunctional basket case either. Cue the blind optimism that afflicts the southern half of the capital twice a year.
Cue Ronaldo's best game to date in a derby match. Cue some newly-invented songs from the Calderon stands that are not printable here. Ronaldo loves to put on a show, and he certainly did that night. His second was one for the scrapbook.
April: Winning the League, More or Less
Real traveled to the Camp Nou with a four-point advantage over Barcelona and a less-than-stellar recent record in Catalonia.
Sami Khedira opened the scoring in the first half. Alexis Sanchez equalized with 20 minutes to play. The title hung in the balance. Three minutes later, Ronaldo raced onto a Mesut Ozil through-ball and calmly slotted home under Victor Valdes. He then made some new friends in Camp Nou with his "calm down" patting-the-dog-on-head goal celebration.
Fair enough, really. He had just essentially won the league.
May: Really Winning the League
May 2, 2012. With the league already in the bag, Real traveled up north to complete its glorious season in a way scriptwriters would appreciate.
The final game of the campaign was against Athletic at San Mamés. The crumbling stadium stands on the site of an old church that bore the same name. The saint in question was thrown to the lions, hence Athletic's nickname.
Surely Real would not be allowed to celebrate its title on the hallowed turf? It was decided that the stadium would empty before the final whistle, just in case.
Ronaldo capped the season with the final goal of the campaign in a 3-0 win.
June: Euro 2012
As the final matches in Group B loomed on 17 June, the international media, and even that in Ronaldo's native Portugal, was in barbed mood.
Portugal's captain had failed to score in its opening two matches and Paolo Bento's team needed a win to go through to the knock-out stages. In fact, any team from the group could have gone through with the right set of results.
Ronaldo turned in a man-of-the-match performance with two goals to sink the Netherlands, among the pre-tournament favorites. Finally, the number 7 had delivered on the big stage for his country.
June: Euro 2012.
Not to be outdone—even by himself—Ronaldo popped up in the quarterfinal against the solid Czechs and scored this thumping header.
Portugal went through to the semifinals courtesy of Ronaldo's strike, and Portugal's media hastily turned the villain into the national hero.
Unfortunately, Spain awaited in the next round, and the rest is history. Of the sort that sends people to sleep, as the semifinal between the two did.
In the second leg of the Supercup, Gonzalo Higuain struck early to level the aggregate score at 3-3, a result that would have been enough for Real on the away goals rule.
Ronaldo had different ideas, though, and raced through on 19 minutes to score one of the finest goals of his career. As an added bonus, he made a complete mug of Gerard Pique.
It also proved to be the goal that won the Supercup for Real after Leo Messi pulled one back late on.
Nobody cares too much about the Supercup in reality, but putting one over the eternal foe is always gratifying.
September / October: Double-Treble
October: El Clasico
It was billed, as all clasicos are, as the clash of the titans. The deciding game in the battle for the 2012 Ballon d'Or. Good against evil (depending on which rabid pro-one-or-the-other newspaper you happen to read). Leo vs Cristiano.
Honors ended up more or less even. Ronaldo struck first. Messi replied. The Argentinean then put his side ahead. Ronaldo equalized. There was no knockout lunch.
However, in bagging his brace, Ronaldo became the only player in history to score in six straight clasicos. The feat is even more impressive when you consider he hadn't scored in one until April 2011.
A points victory, then.
December: Atletico Free-Kick
Real went into last week's derby eight points behind Atletico, 11 behind Barcelona and on the back of a loss to Betis. Jose Mourinho's team needed a win.
Atletico started fairly brightly, but lost its way after Ronaldo thumped home a free-kick in the first half.
It was the first time he had hit the target since scoring with a similar strike in the previous derby in April. Thibaut Courtois will not relish next year's return match.
Real won the game, extended its winning streak against its city foe into a 14th year and reined in Atletico to within five points.