Many were surprised that he was even on the field at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, but when Cristiano Ronaldo left it he did so with the adoring chants of Real Madrid's fans ringing in his ears.
Jose Mourinho had been expected to rest the Portugal star ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last-16 clash against his former club Manchester United due to fitness worries, but the 28-year-old shrugged off any concerns with a virtuoso display.
He fired a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Sevilla, and had a hand in the other goal, before being taken off with almost half an hour to play as the sounds of 'Ronaldo, Ronaldo' resounded around the ground.
It was a touching moment for the player, who has not always had the closest relationship with the Madridistas despite his phenomenal scoring record.
He took his tally to 24 in La Liga this season -- behind only Lionel Messi's 34 -- and 36 in all competitions as he fired his 20th treble since joining Real from United for a world-record $130 million fee in 2009.
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Ronaldo's low cross gave Karim Benzema the easiest of his 50 La Liga goals as the ball ricocheted kindly off Sevilla's Fernando Navarro, then he fired in a superb left-foot effort from outside the box in the 26th minute to make it 2-0.
Just 36 seconds after the halftime break, Ronaldo was at it again as he pounced on a error to score his 11th goal in nine games against Sevilla in all competitions.
The 12th was worth the price of admission as he led a counter attack from his own penalty area, and slotted home a return pass from Gonzalo Higuain.
The Argentine forward departed soon after Ronaldo did -- but it left Real a player short after he received a second yellow card.
Midtable Sevilla also dropped to 10 men in the 80th minute as Dutch defender Hedwiges Maduro also picked up a second booking, but Manu del Moral still managed a late consolation goal.
The result left Real four points behind second-placed city rivals Atletico and 13 adrift of Barcelona, who both play on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Malaga stayed fourth with a 2-1 win at Levante thanks to two goals from 20-year-old midfield star Isco, while Valencia moved up to fifth with a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo as Paraguay striker Nelson Valdez netted three minutes into time added on.
Manchester City's Premier League title defense is in tatters after Saturday's shock 3-1 defeat by promoted team Southampton.
Leaders Manchester United can move 12 points clear of second-placed City with victory in Sunday's home match against Everton.
City boss Roberto Mancini had been defiant after last weekend's 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but the Italian was more downbeat about his team's chances after dropping more points.
'I used to be always optimistic and want to be in this moment, but it's difficult. I think we now have 10% chance. I don't think United will drop 12 points,' he told reporters
'It was a really poor performance. Southampton were better than us. We conceded two goals which I didn't think a team like us could concede. We played this game with only two or three players. Three versus 11 was really difficult.'
Gareth Barry gave away possession for Southampton's first goal by Jason Puncheon and also conceded an embarrassing own-goal soon after halftime to make it 3-1.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart was at fault for Steven Davis' goal for 2-0, and Edin Dzeko's 12th in the league this season for City in the 39th minute did not signal the fightback it promised.
It was Southampton's first win in four games since Mauricio Pochettino took over as manager, and lifted the team six points clear of the relegation zone.
Chelsea won for the first time in five matches to retain third place, thrashing third-bottom Wigan 4-1 to ease the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.
Veteran midfielder Frank Lampard scored his 12th goal this season, moving closer to Bobby Tambling's club record total of 202, as the 34-year-old raised speculation that he will earn a new contract.
'It is not my decision. I am trying to improve him, if that is possible, because he is a great influence,' Benitez said.
Chelsea stayed a point ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham, whose winger Gareth Bale scored both goals in a 2-1 win at home to Newcastle to take his tally to 13 in the league.
Arsenal moved above Everton into fifth with a 1-0 win at Sunderland as Santi Cazorla scored the only goal, while Swansea went above Liverpool in seventh after beating bottom team Queens Park Rangers 4-1 thanks to two goals from Michu, who now has 15 in the EPL this season.
Juventus' hopes of a second successive Serie A title were boosted after second-placed Napoli dropped points against fellow Scudetto hopefuls Lazio.
Juve won 2-0 at home to Fiorentina as strikers Marko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri scored in the first half -- the latter despite losing a boot and playing on in his sock.
That put the pressure on Napoli to reduce a six-point deficit, but Walter Mazzarri's team needed an 87th-minute equalizer from defender Hugo Campagnaro to come away with any reward.
Striker Sergio Floccari volleyed an 11th-minute opener, but Argentina international replied in kind at the end to keep his side six points clear of the third-placed Rome team.
Bayern Munich marched towards a 23rd Bundesliga title on Saturday, moving 15 points clear in the title race after a 4-0 victory at home to Schalke.
With two-time defending champions Borussia Dortmund and third-placed Bayer Leverkusen dropping points earlier in the day, Jupp Heynckes' team romped to victory against a Schalke side which had won just one out of nine games.
Young Austrian star David Alaba scored twice, the opener from the penalty spot after Franck Ribery was fouled.
Bastian Schweinsteiger made it 2-0 with a free-kick, then after the break Mario Gomez set up the 20-year-old Alaba and then wrapped up the win with his first goal of 2013 in his first start this year.
Dortmund crashed 4-1 at home to Hamburg, with South Korea forward Son Heung-Min and Latvian Artjoms Rudnevs scored twice each as both teams had a man sent off.
Robert Lewandowski put the home side ahead in front of a crowd of more than 80,000 but Rudnevs and Son netted before the Poland striker was sent off.
Hamburg lost defender Jeffrey Bruma after halftime following his foul on Marco Reus, but
Rudnevs headed home on 62 and 20-year-old Son' netted at the end as Hamburg moved up to fifth.
Leverkusen drew 3-3 at seventh-placed Borussia Monchengladbach, for whom Patrick Herrmann scored a late equalizer.
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