Ronaldo, Salah, Icardi bag four; Race for European Golden Shoe intensifies

Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 444 goals in 429 Real Madrid appearances since joining from Manchester United

Story highlights

  • Ronaldo, Salah & Icardi all score four goals
  • Race for European golden shoe intensifies

(CNN)Hopes of challenging Barcelona's dominance in the Spanish League have long since evaporated for Real Madrid but the defending champions do have one race they think they can win.

Zinedine Zidane has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to catch Lionel Messi in the race to be named La Liga's top scorer, describing the Portuguese as "from another galaxy."
Ronaldo found the back of the net four times against Girona in Sunday's La Liga match-up, helping Los Blancos to a 6-3 victory.
    It was the 33-year-old's 50th career hat-trick, and the eighth time he has bagged four or more in a Real Madrid shirt.
    Having languished on four La Liga goals before the turn of the year, Ronaldo has scored 18 in nine league games since, taking him to second in the overall standings behind his Argentine rival.
    No player from Europe's top five leagues has scored more in 2018.
    "Cristiano's a very important player for us; he transmits an important and positive energy to the group," said Zidane.
    "He's unbelievably ambitious and that comes across in every training session and in everything he does on the pitch. It's what makes him different from the rest."
    Having surpassed Luis Suarez, Ronaldo is now just three behind Messi as his quest for a fourth Pichichi Trophy intensifies.
    "Hopefully he can catch him. It's important for him and for us too," said Zidane. "When he's playing well, the team plays well".
    Such were Ronaldo's woes in front of goal in the first half of the season, it was taking him on average 23 shots to find the back of the net. Now, Spanish media report, he is requiring less than four.
    "He's always in very good form come the end of the season," said Zidane. "He's got an eye for goal and he'll never lose that."
    All four of the striker's goals were first-touch finishes from within the area. With Ronaldo firing, Real have won eight of their past 10 La Liga fixtures, taking them within four points of Atletico Madrid in second place.
    Barcelona, however, are unbeaten in 36 -- the Catalan club's last league defeat coming back in April 2017 away at Malaga.
    "We want to try to take second place," said a bullish Zidane. "We've rediscovered our confidence in recent matches.
    "I'm happy for all the players because we've never thrown the towel in. We're going to try to continue in this vein".

    'The eighth wonder of the world'

    Ronaldo was not the only player to hit the headlines with four goals in a single game across Europe's top five leagues this weekend.
    Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah took his tally to 36 in just 41 appearances, putting Watford to the sword in a 5-0 home victory -- the sixth time Klopp's men have scored five or more this season.
    Mo Salah is the first Egyptian to score four or more in Europe's top five leagues in the 21st century.
    The 25-year-old is now the outright top scorer in Europe's top five leagues, leaving Reds players past and present at a loss for new superlatives.
    "I think it's indescribable. The goals he brings are invaluable and he's just so good to play with," said defender Joe Gomez.
    "Scoring goals has always been regarded as the hardest part of the game," said former striker Michael Owen, who twice netted four for Liverpool. "Mo Salah is starting to make me question that statement."
    Owen didn't even manage to hit 20 league goals in a single campaign over the course of his eight-year career at Anfield. Salah already has 28 with seven fixtures remaining -- four more than Tottenham's Harry Kane who was recently sidelined with an ankle injury.
    The Egyptian is only the third Liverpool player to score 25 or more in a single campaign, emulating club greats Robbie Fowler and Luis Suarez.
    He has also now scored more goals in all competitions than any other Liverpool player in their debut season at the club, overtaking the mark set in 2007/08 by Fernando Torres.
    "Mo's just a positive person and a great guy to be around, he's always smiley and happy," said Gomez, after Salah sportingly apologized to Watford goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
    "That shows on the pitch, he just enjoys his football. It's a pleasure to be around and a breath of fresh air."
    Brazilian Roberto Firmino was the other scorer on a snowy Anfield night, deftly flicking home a cross by Salah for his 23rd of the campaign.
    That duo and fellow forward Sadio Mane have now found the back of the net 73 times between them this season.
    "The whole team has got so much quality and depth," said Gomez. "It's a great side."
    Salah is the first to score four goals from exactly four shots in England's top-flight Arsenal's since Andrey Arshavin against Liverpool at the same ground in April 2009.

    Centurion

    A thousand miles away at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi reached a milestone of his own in the Nerazzuri's 5-0 victory over Sampdoria.
    Without a goal for two-and-a-half months, Icardi found the net four times in just 21 minutes against his former club -- the second an impudent backheel that left Sampdoria goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano embarrassed.
    Mauro Icardi celebrates his four-goal haul. The last Inter player to score four in a single game was Diego MIlito in 2012 against Palermo.
    It took the 25-year-old to 100 career goals in Serie A -- making him the sixth youngest to achieve the feat.
    Only AC Milan great Jose Altafini, Juventus legends Felice Borel and Giampiero Boniperti, Lazio stalwart Silvio Piola and Giuseppe Meazza have reached the mark quicker.
    Sunday's spree also took him to 100 goals in all competitions since moving from Sampdoria to Inter at the ground where he made his name -- something Icardi described as "destiny."
    Race for the European Golden Shoe

    Name Goals Points

    Mo Salah 28 56

    Lionel Messi 25 50

    Edinson Cavani 24 48

    Ciro Immobile 24 48

    Harry Kane 24 48

    "I've scored 100 goals in Serie A and 100 with Inter, I'm happy but I didn't expect them to come today," said Icardi. "I scored my first goal in the top flight here, it was destiny.
    "But the win was the most important thing. I also went through a difficult time with my injury; I had something bothering me and I couldn't play without having it on my mind.
    "Now, it's just an unpleasant memory, I'm back available and I want to help the team."
    With 22 Serie A goals for the season, Icardi is now just two behind Lazio's Ciro Immobile in the race for the the Italian league's Capocannoniere -- currently held by Roma's Edin Dzeko.
    He has some way to go if he's to catch Salah, though. The Liverpool man tops the lot when it comes to the European Golden Shoe, sitting three goals and six points clear of Messi as the season draws to close.