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Zidane: Ballon d'Or just reward for hero Ronaldo

By Agence France-Presse in Madrid | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-21 07:46

Portuguese striker scores a hat-trick to help Real sink city rival Atletico

 Zidane: Ballon d'Or just reward for hero Ronaldo

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his second goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish league match on Saturday. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real won 3-0 at home. Sergio Perez / Reuters

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insisted he has no doubt Cristiano Ronaldo will be the deserving winner of a fourth Ballon d'Or come January, but his hat-trick in a 3-0 defeat of Atletico Madrid on Saturday may convince others.

Ronaldo returned to haunt Atletico just five months after scoring the winning penalty in Real's second Champions League victory over their city rival in three seasons.

In the final La Liga derby at Atletico's Vicente Calderon, Ronaldo's deflected freekick opened the scoring before he doubled the lead from the penalty spot and completed his 39th Real Madrid hat-trick with a simple finish from Gareth Bale's fine cross.

"I never had any doubt. It is not his three goals that are going to change my mind," said Zidane on Ronaldo's case to be crowned the world's best player for 2016.

"He showed it all last season, he shows it in every game. There is so much expected of him, but he is ahead of the rest.

"Three goals in a match like this may make everyone agree, but for me there is no debate. The Ballon d'Or will be his."

Victory extends Real's lead at the top of La Liga to four points from Barcelona, who missed the ill Lionel Messi in a 0-0 draw at home to nine-man Malaga earlier on Saturday.

Madrid is now unbeaten in 29 games in all competitions stretching back to April, but this was Zidane's men's best display in that run.

The performance was even more impressive given Madrid was missing six key players through injury.

However, those absences forced Zidane to change his system to devastating effect with Ronaldo playing as a center-forward and the outstanding Isco in his natural role just behind the Portuguese.

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