Raul Wears a New Teamwear But Still With His Beloved No. 7
In an event that nobody thought would ever happen, Raul bids goodbye to Real Madrid. Raul Gonzalez Blanco also known by fans as The Angel of Madrid, The Golden Boy of Spain, The Legend, El Capitan, El Siete, or just Raul, leaves Santiago Bernabeu after 16 incredible years, 323 goals and 550 league games or 744 official games. He has spent most of his football career playing for Real Madrid until 25th of July 2010 when he decided to sign a two-year contract with German Bundesliga club Schalke 04.
It was in 1994-95 season when he started playing with Madrid’s C-team when Madrid’s coach at that time and now director-general Jorge Valdano decided to promote him to first team status. At 17 years and 4 months Raul was the youngest player ever to play on La Liga. And the rest is history, as they say.
For Real Madrid and the fans, Raul was not simply a footballer or just a goal scorer. He was an icon, an emblem and his leaving has been described by Real Madrid Director-general Valdano as a closing of a very thick chapter because he has been a great part of the Los Blancos history. Some have even said that his exit is like the closing of an era, the Raul Madrid era. Raul is one of the few players who have played for his club not simply for the money but for the love of football. Changing a teamwear has been so easy for some especially when the offer is huge. When all had come and gone, Raul remained to carry the torch, even when he was being offered millions by other clubs.
As a football player, he has set a lot of records in a club that has set the bar so high with exceptional players like Alfredo Di Stefano, Butragueño, Michel and Hugo Sanchez.
His records in numbers say it all:
16 years - and 15 full seasons - with Real Madrid's senior side
17 years and four months... The youngest ever player to debut for Real Madrid's first team
228 League goals...third highest all-time goalscorer in La Liga
323 Competitive goals...Real Madrid's all-time top scorer
66 Champions League goals... all-time top scorer in the competition. He's also the first player to hit the 50-goal mark
68 goals in all UEFA club competition... joint all-time top scorer
550 appearances in La Liga... a Real Madrid record and the second highest in the league's history
132 Champions League appearances... second highest in the competition's history
16 major titles including three times UEFA Champions League title plus six times the Spanish championship
Finishing his career as Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer
Raul at his best and the kiss
The soul of Real Madrid
He is a legend and a tough act to follow. Yes, there will be newer players, even better players as there is now. But what Raul is can’t simply be replaced by a good player. As Cyrus C Malek of Goal.com wrote:
Every team have their talisman - the player who symbolizes the principles and values of his club, the man who embodies his club’s spirit, the leader who wears the captain’s armband and heads his team not just by way of words, but also by example.
For Real Madrid, that man is Raul Gonzalez Blanco.
The one thing that is so amazing about Raul is the fact that despite all the success and fame, he has remained firmly grounded. His exploits on the football field is well documented but that is only where his exploits can be seen. Outside of the football field, he remains a gentleman. In a world where notoriety has become synonymous to football players and their wives and girlfriends, Raul takes his role as Madrid’s representative to the world as a brand of his character and serving as a reference for such rare qualities as virtue and honour.
Even when the national coaches dropped him for younger players for the national team nobody ever heard him argue about it or disparage the decision. He is the only player who remains not to have been shown the red card even in the heat of the competition, proof that El Capitan remains true to the principles of fair play and sportsmanship. And he took that leadership to heart, encouraging his teammates and it is no wonder these younger players think highly of him.
Here are some of what his former teammates had to say about Raul:
Iker Casillas: "Raul is a symbol of Real Madrid.
A great captain is defined by ups and downs, knowing how to always make the
best of any situation. Raul is an example of professionalism and he helped me
grow as a player and person. The incredible histories of clubs are written by
great footballers, and Raul is one of them."
Cristiano Ronaldo: "Playing by Raul's side has been an honour. I always dreamed of doing so as a kid. It was an honour to share the same dressing room and I wish him all the best."
Xabi Alonso: "Raul represents the values of Real Madrid. He is a symbol and a part of this club's history. It isn't easy to play for Real Madrid for 15 years, but he did because is a magnificent player."
Kaka: "Raul is an amazing player and an important member of this club. Raul will forever be a part of Madridismo and his departure is a sad day for fans and team-mates."
Pepe: "The 16 years that he played here speak volumes about his talent. He holds a special place in my heart because he always followed my progress when I was injured. He got off from the bench and accompanied me to the dressing room, which was an incredible gesture that I will never forget. He is a huge piece of Real Madrid's history."
Transfer is inevitable
Those in the know may be sad about his leaving but says it is inevitable. For one who has so much love for football and Real Madrid, it is but a natural evolution that even the other football greats did in the twilight of their career. As Raul has said himself on his transfer: "excited to play and work very hard. I hope that these two years are a marvelous experience. I am sure that everything is going to go very well. I want to score goals, but the most important thing is the team, not the personal objectives. It has been that way for me for the past 16 years."
Schalke on the other hand is honored with his presence because as the Scalke boss said “Raul is one of the world's best players. The fans have something to look forward to. Raul is one of that rare breed of footballers who put their own interests behind those of the team. And you don’t get that very often these days.”
And so we wish him luck on his new journey with Schalke 04. He will wear a new color, Royal Blues, and a new team uniform but still with his traditional number 7, he is still El Siete.