MADRID • Zinedine Zidane admitted he "could never do" what fellow three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo did after the Portuguese scored four goals in Real Madrid's 7-1 demolition of Celta Vigo on Saturday.
"He's unique. Few are able to do what he does," said the Real manager and former World Cup winner, who is nicknamed Zizou.
"Only he can strike a ball like he does. I used to be good at taking shots but I took them from closer to the goal.
"He's at Madrid, he's strong, he's playing well and he can score four goals in 40 minutes. I could never have done that."
Ronaldo silenced his critics after being jeered by some home supporters. He wheeled away in celebration with hand cupped to his ear after smashing home Real's second in the 50th minute.
Pepe had headed Zidane's men in front before half-time. Ronaldo added three more to surpass Telmo Zarra as the second-highest scorer in La Liga history with 252 goals in just 228 appearances.
The forward had been in the spotlight after controversially claiming that Real would be top of the league if the rest of his team-mates matched his exacting standards, after a 1-0 defeat at home by Atletico Madrid last weekend.
Victory moved Real back to within nine points of leaders Barcelona, who travelled to Eibar yesterday.
"No one can doubt Cristiano," Real winger Lucas Vazquez said. "He scored four goals and we congratulate him."
Ronaldo was met with a few whistles from the crowd early in the second half after losing possession twice in quick succession.
However, he responded instantly with a dipping strike from 25 metres that flew past Blanco.
More was to come from Ronaldo as he then curled home a brilliant free kick into the top corner. He hit the bar with another free kick before Iago Aspas capitalised on the huge amount of space behind the Madrid defence to pull a goal back with a neat chip over Keylor Navas.
But Madrid duly replied with a further three goals in 13 minutes.
First, Ronaldo completed his 30th La Liga hat-trick with a tap-in from Isco's unselfish low cross. He then headed home his fourth of the afternoon before substitute Jese Rodriguez smashed home Madrid's sixth after a fine solo run.
There was further good news for Real, as Gareth Bale scored the seventh on his first appearance after six weeks out with a calf injury.
The Welsh star's return to fitness is a huge boost for Zidane ahead of Madrid's Champions League last-16, second-leg clash with Roma tomorrow. Real have a 2-0 edge from the first leg in the competition which represents their only realistic chance of a trophy this season.
"Bale looked good, he was happy to play after so long," Zidane said of the Welshman, who replaced Isco after 66 minutes. "We'll see tomorrow and Monday for the match against Roma but I think he's ready."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE