If rumors that Cristiano Ronaldo might be dropped for Real Madrid's trip to Valencia were a ploy from coach Jose Mourinho to inspire his fellow Portuguese to greater heights, it was an unquestionable success.
The two were reported to have had a frank exchange of views after Real's midweek win over Valencia in the Spanish Cup, leading to stories that Ronaldo would be asked to sit on the substitutes bench.
But he wasn't. He started and demonstrated why he is lauded as one of the world's best players by helping himself to two goals and an assist as Real won 5-0 to claw back a little ground on runaway leaders Barcelona.
The damage was done in the first half, as Real raced into a five-goal lead inside the opening 45 minutes.
José Mourinho's press conference antics Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring on nine minutes as he polished off a swift Real counter attack from fellow countryman Angel Di Maria's cutback.
Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves had to save twice from Germany midfielder Sami Khedira before Ronaldo made headway down the left and crossed for Di Maria to tap into an empty net.
A minute later it was 3-0 as Mesut Ozil released Ronaldo and he fired home at the near post to effectively end the contest.
Ronaldo grabbed his second and Real's fourth on 41 minutes when he again finished off a pass from Ozil and the German playmaker was the provider on the stroke of halftime as he sent Di Maria away to grab his second.
Valencia improved after the break and tested Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas -- recently dropped by Mourinho -- several times but Real held firm.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid maintained their seven point lead over their city rivals in second with a comfortable 2-0 win over Levante, though their star striker Falcao limped off with injury.
Adrian and Koke grabbed the goals for Atletico, who remain eight points behind Barcelona.
Osasuna beat Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 while goals from Javi Guerra and Óscar González helped Real Valladolid to a 2-0 victory over Real Zaragoza.
In Italy, Inter stayed fourth in the Serie A table after a 1-1 draw away at AS Roma before news broke that their Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder had agreed to join Turkish club Galatasaray.
City neighbors AC Milan beat Bologna 2-1 at the San Siro while Fiorentina and Napoli drew 1-1.
In France big-spending Paris St-Germain won 1-0 away at Bordeaux to move top of Ligue 1 thanks to their Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Stade Rennes and Nice were also winners on Sunday.
In Germany, Nurnberg drew 1-1 with Hamburg while Augsburg won 3-2 away at Fortuna Düsseldorf.