Another day another hat-trick, another night another goal for the man, the brand and indeed the digital age.
Last Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo notched a treble against Sevilla to take his tally at Real Madrid to a mere 182 goals in 179 games. Four days later, last Wednesday against Manchester United at the Bernabeu, the meter clicked again.
Ronaldo's headed finish was a synthesis of the prodigious power and immaculate technique that have no equal in this generation. The leap, the timing, the contact, all synchronised to steer the ball into the corner of the net.
It ticked the aesthetic and commercial boxes too. This wasn't a rampaging centre-forward, all elbows and knees as he attacked the ball. Instead it was a perfect tableau of physical symmetry as he tucked his heels up for extra purchase in mid-air; it gave him the split-second of hang time that he needed. Every part of him was streamlined and controlled. It was a fabulous moment of pure athletic grace.
He couldn't have done it any better if he'd been asked to create it in a film studio with the help of a green screen, 3D and a motion-capture bodysuit.
It will go straight into his personal portfolio of glorious deeds, his already stacked catalogue of messianic moments, all delivered to worshipping crowds and a global fanbase.
It has been recorded from a dozen different camera angles, in surround sound and vision, in luxuriant super slow motion and in high-definition colour, to the point where a fleeting fraction of real time mutates via the technology into a kind of virtual reality. It has already been YouTubed, downloaded, app-ed, smartphoned and flashed around the world through the positively Victorian medium of still photography.
Ronaldo, like Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Michael Jordan, represents the contemporary synergy between sport and entertainment. Like those, he first dedicated himself to reaching a level of mastery in his chosen discipline that few before them have ever attained. An enormous born talent was built upon by years of obsessive practice. And when the money started rolling in, they rewrote the rules here too. They progressed from virtuoso sportsmen to international brand names to corporate entities.
In soccer, Beckham got there before Ronaldo but the Portuguese is the current avatar in this arena. Even more so than Lionel Messi, whose genetic gifts didn't extend to the film star looks with which Ronaldo, in addition, was spoiled. Messi's introverted nature doesn't chime with the demands of global fame either.
Ronaldo has had occasion to lament his loss of privacy too but he gives every impression that he'd lament it even more if everyone stopped talking about him. He has star quality, not just as a footballer, but as a person. He has the necessary charisma, and perhaps the necessary insecurity too. Add to this his unabashed narcissism and he is a star, not even by sport's usually more modest standards, but by old-fashioned Hollywood standards.
From his earliest days at United he displayed both the tantrums and the brilliance of any self-respecting diva. It was easy to dislike him for his petulance and immaturity. But in hindsight it should be said that he was immature for the very good reason that he was very young. Ronaldo was 18 when he moved to Old Trafford in 2003.
If he was slow to grow up it was presumably because he'd been the centre of attention from almost the first day he kicked a ball. He was by all accounts a complete childhood natural. At every grade he was the best among his peers by a mile, and he never knew anything different. He never apparently doubted his own destiny either. It all came so easy.
So when he was eventually sold for a record sum, in his own head this was probably inevitable too. Real paid United £80m for him in 2009. Whereas most players would have publicly demurred from such a price tag, and some would have buckled under its weight, Ronaldo revelled in it. "It makes me feel proud," he said, "to be the most expensive player in footballing history."
And like a proper star he then went on to break all sorts of box-office records; in his case, goal-scoring records. Real Madrid are royalty; Ronaldo grew up in a poor neighbourhood on the island of Madeira; but he has taken to the club as if to the manner born. He patently loves being the main man; he loves being a star.
He doesn't have Messi's intuitive humility but there is a quality of innocence to his ego that is almost endearing. He is unable to conceal his daft vanity, for example, and he isn't notably shrewd in his public pronouncements either. In 2011, he was roundly booed by Dinamo Zagreb fans during a Champions League match in Croatia. "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great footballer, people are envious of me," he shrugged. "I don't have any other explanation." And what other explanation could there possibly be?
Naturally enough, he likes to talk about himself in the third person. But despite being truly, madly in love with himself, he is capable of the odd improbable philosophical insight too. "There are days when it's not easy being Cristiano Ronaldo," he once reflected, "but nothing in life is easy. If it was, we wouldn't have been born crying."