By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Cristiano Ronaldo is back on track. Following a summer blighted by fitness issues and a break in September to recover from tendonosis problems dating back to last season, the Portuguese is now back to doing what he does best - scoring goals galore.
His hat-trick in the 8-2 win at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday was his 24th for Real Madrid and saw him surpass the figure of Blancos legend Ferenc Puskas (23). Only one player now lies ahead of Ronaldo for trebles in the famous white shirt and that's Alfredo Di Stefano on 28.
That mark looks well within reach, but even closer is the all-time record for hat-tricks in La Liga, currently shared by Di Stefano and legendary Athletic Club striker Telmo Zarra (both on 22). Barcelona's Lionel Messi, incidentally, has 19.
In the Champions League, Ronaldo registered a record 17 strikes as Madrd claimed La Decima in 2013-14, surpassing the mark of 14 previously shared by Messi and Jose Altafini (in the European Cup era). His goal against FC Basel last week means he now has 68 in Europe's premier club competition, just three fewer than the tournament's all-time top scorer, Raul.
The former Spain striker still leads the scoring charts at Real Madrid too, having hit 323 goals for the capital club between 1994 and 2010. Ronaldo is currently fourth in that list on 260, also behind Di Stefano (308) and Santillana (290).
Having grown frustrated at the transfer policy at Madrid over the summer, the Portuguese is keen on a remarkable return to Manchester United, but won't leave the Spanish side until he has become the club's all-time record goalscorer. At his current rate, that should happen early next season. But with up to 57 fixtures still remaining this term, he could catch Di Stefano in 2014-15. Raul's 323 came in 741 games, while Cristiano has 260 in just 253 games for the current European champions - the best ratio of any player in the top 10.
In La Liga, Ronaldo is currently on 182 goals, some way behind former Madrid greats Di Stefano (227), Raul (228) and Hugo Sanchez (234), as Messi (246) closes in on Zarra's record of 251. Over a single season, meanwhile, Cristiano's 46 Primera Division strikes in 2011-12 is bettered only by the Barca forward's 50 in the same campaign.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti plans to rotate his pack for Tuesday's game against Elche, but has already confirmed Ronaldo will feature at the Santiago Bernabeu, where another goal will bring up double figures for the Portuguese - before the end of September.
"Cristiano doesn't need a rest," Ancelotti said on Monday. "He's on form and in good condition both physically and mentally. He's in full flow and we need him."
And Ronaldo always wants to play. After all, there are records to be broken.