By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Such scoring stats may never be seen again. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have pushed each other to new heights over the last few seasons and the current campaign appears no different, with the pair already in double figures. But while the Argentine’s goals have dried up in the last three games, the Portuguese has hit a rich streak of scoring form at what could be the best time of all – just before Sunday’s Clasico.
Messi had the edge in 2011-12, netting an incredible 73 goals (to Ronaldo‘s 60) to smash Gerd Muller’s long-standing European record of 67 in a single campaign. And the 25-year-old got off to a better start than his Real Madrid rival this season, too, racking up 10 in his first seven games. But the Argentine has failed to add to his tally since his double in the 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow last month and was overtaken by Ronaldo on Wednesday as the Portuguese struck a second successive hat-trick – this time in a 4-1 win over Ajax in Amsterdam.Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead at Ajax as the Dutch defence failed to clear a Karim Benzema cross from the left, and after the Frenchman had struck a stunning second with a scissor kick after the break and Madrid had conceded a sloppy set-piece goal at the other end, the Portuguese wrapped up a comprehensive victory with two late efforts within a minute – a right-footed curler from outside the area which found its way just inside the post and a cool lob over Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer moments later following an impressive long pass from Sami Khedira.
Smiling broadly as he claimed his second match ball in the space of four days, the 27-year-old is now unrecognisable from the forlorn figure who refused to celebrate his goals against Granada just a few weeks ago. Gone is the depressed demeanour from the Bernabeu game, replaced by a lean and mean scoring machine who has racked up eight in his last four appearances for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Messi, meanwhile, has failed to hit the target in the last three games, but remains in top form when it comes to setting up others. The Argentine has assisted five Barca goals so far this term, including four in the last two games (both in the 2-0 victory at Benfica on Tuesday and two out of three in the 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla on Saturday). And Cristiano, despite his impressive run in front of goal, has failed to set up a strike for any of his team-mates so far in 2012-13.
Ronaldo now has 158 goals for Real Madrid at over one per game and took his Champions League tally to 42 thanks to Wednesday’s triple. He has already scored twice against Barcelona this season (Messi also netted two in two in the sides’ Spanish Supercopa series) and has converted in his last four Camp Nou appearances. And with eight in his last four games including back-to-back hat-tricks, he is clearly in the mood once again. So following his recent mini-drought, Barcelona better hope Messi is, too.
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