Every club needs a Raul Gonzalez, someone confident to come in and get the job done and someone who is looked upon to.
Raul has been that someone to every club that he has represented in his career spanning 19 years, and is today as fierce as an advocate for the aged players in the system as he ever was. Never mind that it is a system that time will eventually forget — as the stock of players over 30 starts to drop.
For Raul, who has been linked with assisting Pep Guardiola as the latter enters his German stint, all this has not been so much of an obstacle to prove otherwise but an opportunity, a chance to step up and prove his critics wrongs, no matter where he plays.
His domestic league record in three different countries says it all.
· 229 goals in 16 seasons (Real Madrid)
· 28 goals in 2 seasons (Schalke)
· 7 goals in 1 on-going season (Al Sadd)
I remember very well my first happenstances related to Raul. As a kid laden with nothing but passion for the sport, the stories of players and their beginnings would be fascinating. This is when I happen to come across a short dialogue between then coach Jorge Valdano and Raul, a day before his debut.
“I am thinking of playing you tomorrow, but I am worried you might be nervous.” – Valdano to Raul
“Well, if you want to win, play me. If you don’t want to win, put someone else in the team.” – A 17-yr-old Raul to Valdano
This might sound arrogant to some but at a time when football was not governed by financial motives or subsequent egotism, it was a statement that reflected his firmness in proving himself and his capabilities. Raul was destined to become one of the greats.
It has not stopped since then. Raul had managed to keep his head above water, to steer past swirls of storms (related to international selections) and to emerge from it all with a sense of giving back speaks volumes about the person he is.
His commitment to charitable causes has won him the respect of the public. As an ambassador for Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he does not shy away from spending time away from football in order to fulfill his role for the organization.
“Because the suffering of any human being diminishes all of us, it’s our responsibility to try to ease that suffering” – Raul Gonzalez
The secret of his success had always been in his head. From the time since, he walked on to the pitch at the age of 17. Hence, it would come as no surprise as he credits Valdano (naming his kid after him is a testament to Valdano’s appreciation) and Real Madrid for his accomplishments. Raul was born at Santiago Bernabéuand the club is where he grew up as a person.
Raulito had been the Alfredo de Stefano of this decade as de Stefano was in his. In fact everything Raul represents today is because of everything the likes of Alfredo de Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Emilio Butragueño represented at their time. And that was the love for football and for the colors of Los Blancos.
If there is any justice in this world, Raul will keep on giving gifts to football for years to come. His dedication to the sport and his work for the FAO should serve as a model of those pursuing to achieve greatness.
Today I am as excited to watch Raul play as I always had been since the time I realized Raul and Real Madrid existed. And I am relatively sure we will see him back at Bernabéuat some point in the future as it is only a matter of time.
I leave you with one of the greatest goals, I believe he had scored for the Merengues against Valencia in the 99/00 UEFA Champions League Final.