Is Cristiano Ronaldo in the best shape of his career?
That is a difficult question to answer, given that the Real Madrid superstar has set a remarkably high bar which he somehow manages to raise year after year.
Certainly in terms of numbers, though, the Portuguese has never before enjoyed a start to a calendar year as productive as the one he is piecing together in 2018 – with the 21 goals he has plundered in just 13 games representing a new high.
Like a good wine, it appears that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is getting even better with age.
A man who opened the 2017-8 campaign uncharacteristically slowly is suddenly right back on top of his game, with a four-goal showing against Girona in his last outing taking him to 37 goals for the season.
Nobody across Europe’s top five divisions can claim to have matched his haul in 2018, while even Lionel Messi – who is considered to be enjoying another standout year at Barcelona – sits two goals behind his eternal rival across all competitions.
Ronaldo appears to have left any struggles firmly in the past as is averaging a scarcely-believable 1.6 goals per game since the turn of the year, with the promise of even more to come.
Right now, his 21-goal haul for 2018 means that he is even bettering his staggering efforts from 2013 when he finished the year with 69 efforts to his name – with his current tally reached in four fewer games.
He has more than double the number of goals he had mustered by March 19 last season, and that campaign ended with him winning La Liga, the Champions League and another Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo has recorded six more goals than he managed in 2016, as Real welcomed Zinedine Zidane to the helm and prepared to taste European glory, and 30 per cent more than 2014 when Carlo Ancelotti was guiding the Blancos towards La Decima.
He did not get close to these levels during his time at Manchester United either – not even in the 2008 season which saw him explode onto the scene and capture a first Golden Ball.
Zidane said this week that “Cristiano is from another galaxy”, and it is difficult to argue with that statement.
The last time Ronaldo took to the field and failed to find the target was on February 3 against Levante.
Since then he has netted 17 times in eight games at an average of almost two per game – and two of those outings came in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain and three more against sides battling for European places in La Liga.
He has always been a man for the big occasion and it appears that he is hitting even greater heights.
It will be difficult to consider this the finest period of his career if he has no titles to show for it at the end of the season, but what is clear is that 2018 is shaping up to be another memorable year for CR7.