Real Madrid CF

Cristiano Ronaldo's Champions League hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in 2017

Robbie Copeland
May 2, 2021, 11:45 AM GMT+1
Ronaldo had one of the games of his life against Atleti
Ronaldo had one of the games of his life against Atleti | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Sometimes in football, there's not much you can do but sit back and take your medicine.

Against your bitter rivals of more than a century, with a place in the Champions League final on the line, that can be a hard thing to do.

But what else is there when one of the best players of all time is in the form of his life?

The stage seemed set for a fairytale in 2017, when Atletico Madrid were drawn to face their dominant city rivals in the semi-finals. But there was to be no heart-warming underdog story this time: instead, the status quo came crashing in and took over.

Cristiano Ronaldo came into the game in imperious form. He'd gone six straight Champions League games without a goal before the quarter-finals, but he exploded against Bayern Munich, scoring five times over two legs to send the German champions packing.

If Atletico were to stand any chance, they had to somehow keep him quiet. And to be fair, they did that...for about ten minutes.

But from the moment Ronaldo rose to power in Casemiro's cross at the back post, the momentum was only going one way.

He'd made it 100 Champions League goals against Bayern, the first player ever to hit that milestone, and clearly it had taken a weight off his shoulders. He was playing with freedom and purpose, and it wasn't long before he'd doubled his money with the pick of the bunch.

His strike didn't even have to be precise to explode past a helpless Jan Oblak. It left his boot like a traction engine and made the journey from the edge of the box to the roof of the net so quickly that the sound barrier still hasn't recovered.

With a few minutes remaining, he found himself on the end of a Lucas Vazquez cut-back, and...well, you know the rest.

You know you're onto a winner when you've just scored a hat-trick against your city rivals to essentially book a place in the Champions League final and it doesn't even stand out from the rest of your ridiculous performances. But this one will go down as a watershed moment for both Real and their talisman.

Ronaldo, being Ronaldo, hit a double against Juventus in the final, and made even more Champions League history when he scored in a record ten consecutive European games the season after.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Real players celebrate Ronaldo's third | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

As for Real Madrid? They won the final. And the final after that. Because that's just what happens when Ronaldo is in this sort of form.

They became just the fourth team in all of history, and the first since the 1970s, to win three European Cups on the spin.

It wasn't his first hat-trick for Real (it was his 42nd, ridiculously) and it wouldn't be his last. But when the time comes to hang up his boots and reflect on his all-conquering career, we'll look back on this one as one of the most significant.