Cristiano Ronaldo’s match-winning hat-trick in Real Madrid’s 4-2 Club World Cup final victory over Kashima Antlers capped off a “dream year” for the superstar forward.
The Japanese side took a shock lead as Gaku Shibasaki’s double made it 2-1 to Kashima after Karim Benzema’s early goal head put Madrid ahead.
Ronaldo’s penalty forced extra time, and he duly spared Madrid’s blushes in the extra 30 minutes to wrap up a third trophy of the year for Zinedine Zidane’s men.
The Portuguese’s performance came at the end of a week in which he won the Ballon d’Or, receiving that honour for the fourth time.
“We suffered a lot, but to win you have to suffer, and we ended the year in the best way,” Ronaldo told TVE.
“It’s a week of great joy, with the Ballon d’Or and this World Cup, a dream year. I want to thank my team-mates, because without them Cristiano could not win the individual trophy he won.
“It was an unforgettable year at a collective level and an individual level, we won the Champions League, [UEFA] Super Cup, European Championship [with Portugal] and now the World Cup, and a few days ago the Ballon d’Or.
“Choosing one is difficult, but the European Championship had a little more of a special taste to it because it was the first time.”
Responding to criticism of his recent form – Ronaldo had failed to score against Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund going into the tournament – he added: “You always expect more from Cristiano, but when I do not give more it is because I cannot.
“The statistics do not lie, as I said I am very happy, it was a spectacular year with both Madrid and the national team.
“I am accustomed to the criticism, I always prove my quality on the pitch.”