After an unusually low-key start to life in Saudi Arabia, Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr career has burst into life.
The 38-year-old had managed just one goal in his opening three competitive appearances in the country - with that solitary strike coming from the penalty spot. That was despite being signed to a staggering £173m-per-year contract following his Manchester United exit.
The expectations were that - even in the twilight of his legendary career - Ronaldo would dominate a significantly weaker level than he has been used to. But early signs suggested that wouldn’t be the case, with his team-mate Anderson Talisca taking much of the plaudits.
That all changed on Thursday however, with the Portuguese forward helping himself to a stunning four-goal haul during Al-Nassr’s demolition of Al-Wehda. Ronaldo’s side needed a win to move back to the top of the Saudi Pro League and achieved that with a convincing 4-0 victory.
Al-Nassr quickly asserted their dominance over the hosts and by the time Ronaldo’s opener came in the 21st minute, it was richly deserved. His clinical finish into the bottom corner was an historic strike for the ex-United star, bringing up his 500th league goal of his club career.
But it quickly became apparent he wouldn’t be resting on his laurels and after springing an errant offside trap, he made it 2-0 shortly before the break.
No longer showing signs of frustrations, Ronaldo was all smiles as he walked down the tunnel at half-time. And it only got better in the second 45 as he completed the 61st hat-trick of a spellbinding career.
His opportunity for a treble came after referee Sultan Al-Harbi was told to check the pitchside monitor for a potential handball in the area. And replays left the on-field official with little choice but to point to the spot, from which Ronaldo made no mistake.
He then made it 4-0 with his fourth of the night and fifth in two games when his tame shot was pawed back into his path by hapless Al-Wehda keeper Abdulquddus Atiah. His final goal was only awarded after a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside, as were all three of his goals from open play.
Ronaldo had one ruled out in his previous match, but managed to stay onside on each occasion this time around. Following the full-time whistle, for the 61st time Ronaldo approached the referee to grab his ball.
However, on this occasion, rather than take it straight to the dressing room, he requested referee Al-Harbi to sign it with his autograph. Considering it’s the first for his new club he will almost certainly keep the ball, referee signature and all.
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That’s in contrast from his historic 60th which he donated to former United team-mate Alejandro Garnacho. That treble came back in April of last year, when he scored three during a win away at Norwich City.
But rather than add it to his museum of trophies and souvenirs, he gave it to the Argentine teenager, who had quickly caught his eye. "He has been training with us the last two weeks and he is one of the most promising players,” Ronaldo said at the time.
He is only 17, but if he keeps his feet on the ground, he will not only be sitting on the bench but will be playing for this club."
That prediction has proven spot on, with Garnacho now a regular for the Red Devils, helping in some part to fill the void left by his idol’s acrimonious Old Trafford departure.