Cristiano Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer as Los Blancos moved to the top of La Liga thanks to a 3-0 win over Levante on Saturday.
Ronaldo struck his 324th goal for the Spanish giants in just his 310th game with a fine shot from outside the area after he had set up Marcelo to open the scoring for the hosts.
Jese Rodriguez added a third nine minutes from time. A first victory in three league games moves Madrid two points clear of Villarreal at the top, but champions Barcelona can move level with Real should they beat Rayo Vallecano at home later on Saturday.
The scale of Ronaldo’s achievement is exemplified by the fact he has played 431 fewer games for Madrid than previous record holder and club legend Raul, who earlier this week announced his decision to retire from football next month after a brief stint with the New York Cosmos.
Ronaldo paraded his record fourth golden boot for being the top scorer in Europe last season to an adoring crowd before kick-off.
However, after disappointing performances in draws against Malaga and Atletico Madrid before the international break, the Bernabeu faithful quickly became restless after another slow start from their side.
Levante have now won just one of their opening eight league matches, but had the first opening of the game when Roger forced Keylor Navas into a smart save against his old club at the near post.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) October 17, 2015
Ronaldo was frustrated moments later when the referee waved play on after he appeared to be barged in the back by Simao Mate Junior inside the area.
Gareth Bale was partnering the Portuguese in attack for the first time in over a month, but the Welshman failed to make an impact before being substituted at half-time as he headed over with his best chance from Toni Kroos’s corner.
The opener arrived on 27 minutes when Levante needlessly gifted possession to Madrid inside their own half and a neat one-two between Marcelo and Ronaldo allowed the Real captain in the absence of the injured Sergio Ramos to fire home.
Levante nearly struck back immediately, but Navas’s brilliant start to the season continued as he flew to his left to somehow claw Deyverson’s powerful header to safety.
And within seconds Levante were punished for again giving the ball away as Kroos squared for Ronaldo to thunder home his 11th goal of the season.
Madrid briefly threatened to run riot as Ronaldo should have turned home Bale’s cut-back. However, after Bale had been replaced by Lucas Vazquez at half-time to keep him fresh for Wednesday’s trip to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, another flat second-half display followed from Rafael Benitez’s men.
Navas again had to rescue his side with a smart stop from Nabil Ghilas and Nacho made a remarkable block to prevent Deyverson pulling a goal back.
Madrid’s greater firepower proved the difference once more, though, as substitute Jese rounded off the scoring as he ghosted past Simao and smashed the ball high past the helpless Ruben Martinez.
As the international break comes to an end, domestic football returns to Spain this weekend.
Seven games into the La Liga season, a number of new faces have impressed after more than 500 million euros was spent in the summer transfer window.
While some clubs spent just a fraction of that, it hasn’t stopped them from unearthing some gems.
Here, Sport360 selects five of the best signings in La Liga so far this season.
DANIEL WASS (Celta Vigo)
The midfielder has quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite by slotting into the side as Michael Krohn-Dehli’s replacement. Wass has given Celta a fine range of passing and control in the centre of the pitch since arriving. But, it’s his energy and dynamism which complement Pablo Hernandez and Augusto Fernandez, while making Eduardo Berizzo’s side more dangerous.
His ability to press high up the pitch allows Celta to win the ball back as quickly as possible, aiding their counter-attacking style that undid Barcelona in their 4-1 defeat to the Galicians.
Wass is known as a free-kick specialist and though none have yet flown into the top corner for Celta, the Dane has chipped in with two goals and founf himself in the box regularly. That drive should see him add a few more throughout the season.
ROBERTO SOLDADO (Villarreal)
Soldado is bouncing back from this nightmare spell at Tottenham with a new lease of life. In England, he was required to play as a lone striker, a role that forced Soldado to come short, go wide and hold the ball up all at the same time. At Villarreal though, he’s being asked to play closer to goal and utilise his ability as a potent finisher.
From seemingly losing that killer touch in front of goal, the Spaniard has rediscovered his finishing instincts and is undoubtedly looking sharper and hungrier. His two goals to date – a touch and low drive into the bottom corner from a long pass against Real Betis on debut, followed by an exquisite volley at home to Espanyol – are an indication that his confidence has returned.
CRISTIANO PICCINI (Real Betis)
He may be the lesser known of the division’s Cristianos but Piccini’s bursts down Real Betis’ right flank and pinpoint crosses have been causing havoc in La Liga this season. The 23-year-old understands how important the attacking aspect of his game is to the Verdiblancos, providing a constant outlet out wide, and his performances are one of the main reasons Betis find themselves sitting eighth in the table.
Despite being 6ft, Piccini is very comfortable on the ball and that, combined with his pace, makes his marauding runs difficult to halt. His stature is beneficial when defending too and the Italian is typically tough.
When asked if he could be the next Lionel Messi after similarities were drawn between him and The Barcelona star, Halilovic responded: “Impossible. Messi is the best player ever. No one plays or will play like him.” Halilovic’s performance at youth level led to heady comparisons but Barca believed the 19-year-old needed to mature so he was sent on loan to Sporting Gijon. There’s immense pressure given the comparisons, but he’s becoming his own player.
Having only featured as a substitute in two of Sporting’s first three matches, Halilovic is now regularly starting and flourishing. His dribbling ability is extremely penetrative, resulting in two superb assists and a stunning goal.
The creativity Sporting lacked early on has been addressed by the Croat’s presence and he is making Abelardo’s side much more fluid. For one so young, arguably the best thing about Halilovic’s performances is the responsibility he takes; always wanting the ball and trying to provide a spark or find a killer pass.
IAGO ASPAS (Celta Vigo)
Aspas is back home and back among the goals. The challenge for Apas this term was to show that those who didn’t trust him in the last two years were wrong and he’s certainly playing like a man with a point to prove. The forward has more minutes in the league for Celta in seven games than with Liverpool and Sevilla in the previous two campaigns and has already matched his Liverpool goal tally.
His aggression and tenacity has set the example for Celta’s pressing style, a key factor in their unbeaten start to the season. This was most notable against Barcelona, when he harried the centre-backs all night and resulted in him scoring the team’s second goal after dispossessing Gerard Pique on the half-way line. Aspas’ superb attitude is being rewarded in the final third with four goals so far.
Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo received his fourth Marca Gold Boot award in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday (13th October) and ominously said "I always want more".