By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
"You are talking to God!" Zlatan Ibrahimovic told a reporter ahead of Sweden's World Cup play-off return against Portugal on Tuesday. But after his brazen boast, Ibra was left in the shadows as Cristiano Ronaldo's Solna spectacular sent the Swedes packing - and the Portuguese to Brazil 2014. So if Ibra is God, how would we describe Ronaldo right now?
Zlatan's two goals gave Sweden high hopes of qualification as the Scandinavians took a 2-1 lead and levelled the aggregate score at 2-2. But Ronaldo, who had hit the winner in Lisbon and opened the scoring in the return, added two more stunning strikes to ensure Portugal's presence in Brazil next summer.
In doing so, the 28-year-old continued what has been the finest year yet of his professional career. And as Fifa decided to extend voting for the Ballon d'Or (originally closed on November 15) to the end of the month, the Portuguese is now the firm favourite to claim the prestigious prize for a second time and bring to an end Lionel Messi's monopoly of the individual honour.
The Argentine has won the award for each of the last four years and is in the running for the prize again this time, but his injury-interrupted 2013 means he is not the strong favourite he has been in previous editions. Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery is also among the contenders after winning it all with the Bavarians last season, but, in terms of individual brilliance, 2013 has been all about Cristiano.
Ronaldo's staggering statistics over the last 11 months may not have included a team trophy, but the Portuguese has been the outstanding individual player of this calendar year. So, with that in mind, Goal takes a look at the Real Madrid forward's incredible numbers in 2013.
67 - Ronaldo has hit 67 goals so far for club and country this year, beating his previous record of 63, in 2012. And he still has five more games to add to that tally (Madrid have eight matches left in 2013 but Cristiano is suspended for the two Copa del Rey clashes against Olimpic de Xativa). The 67 goals have come in just 56 appearances for Madrid and Portugal. Last year's 63 came in 71 appearances.
64 - By comparison, Ronaldo's rivals for the next Ballon d'Or crown, Messi and Ribery, have scored a combined 64 goals in 2013.
57 - The bulk of Cristiano's goals in 2013 have come with Madrid. The Portuguese has netted 57 times in 47 official games for his club this year.
47 - The Madeira-born forward's triple against Sweden saw him reach 47 international goals and equal the Portuguese record held by former Paris Saint-Germain striker Pauleta. One more goal will see Ronaldo, who has 109 Seleccao caps to his name, claim the record outright.
33 - For club and country in 2013-14, Cristiano has 33 goals in 23 games.
30 - In April, he became the first player in Madrid's history to score more than 30 goals for three straight seasons. And he is well on target to do so again this term.
25 - The Portuguese has already scored 25 goals for Real this season (from just 18 games) - his best-ever start to a season in Spain. And that with a new coach and system to get used to, plus the departure of Mesut Ozil (the German had set up more goals for Cristiano than anyone else - 27 - in the previous three campaigns).
19 - His double at Elche, which included a controversial penalty in added time, means the former Manchester United man has now netted against every other team in La Liga. In 2011-12, he became the first player to do so in a single season, but he had never played previously against Elche, who were promoted in the summer.
17 - Ronaldo is currently La Liga's top scorer so far this season with 17 goals and, with Messi on eight and recovering from injury, he is well on course for a second Pichichi prize.
16 - The Portuguese has added maturity to his unquestionable individual brilliance and has 16 assists in 2013, meaning he has been involved in an amazing 82 goals overall this year.
14 - Cristiano's strike at Juventus earlier this month was his 14th Champions League goal of 2013, which saw him beat Messi's mark of 13 from last year.
10 - Ronaldo has 10 goals in nine matches for Portugal in 2013 - the first time he has managed double figures for his country in a calendar year. His previous best was seven in nine games, in 2011.
8 - The 28-year-old is the current top scorer in this season's Champions League, with eight goals from his four games. He needs just one more in the final two group games to break a record he now shares with Hernan Crespo, Filippo Inzaghi and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
6 - Ronaldo has hit six hat-tricks for Madrid in 2013. In total, he has now netted 23 triples for the Spanish side. He only scored one hat-trick at Manchester United, despite spending six seasons at Old Trafford and racking up 118 goals for the team managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.
5 - Ronaldo recently moved up to fifth in the list of all-time Madrid scorers, overtaking Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez, and now has 226 goals for Los Blancos, in just 217 matches. At his current strike-rate, the Portuguese will surpass Madrid's highest scorer, Raul (323 in 741 games) in 2015.
2 - Up until this year, Cristiano had never netted a hat-trick for Portugal. He now has two: against Northern Ireland in Belfast during World Cup qualifying; and on Tuesday, as he hit three past Sweden in the teams' second leg play-off for a place at Brazil 2014.
0 - Ronaldo will end 2013 without a trophy after Madrid won only the Spanish Supercopa in Jose Mourinho's final season at the Santiago Bernabeu. That title, of course, came back in August last year. Whether that makes any difference in the Ballon d'Or voting remains to be seen, but trophies or no trophies, Cristiano has been 2013's finest footballer.
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