Raúl González Blanco (Spanish pronunciation: [raˈul ɣonˈθaleθ ˈβlaŋko]; born 27 June 1977), known as Raúl, is a retired Spanish footballer who played as a striker. Raúl is considered one of the most important players in the history of Real Madrid and regarded as one of the greatest Spanish players of all-time.[2][3][4]

Raúl was born in the San Cristóbal de los Ángeles neighborhood of Madrid where he played for the local youth team before moving to the Atlético Madrid youth team. He later moved to Real Madrid's youth academy and played at its various levels. In 1994, he signed his first professional contract with the fourth division team Real Madrid C and then was swiftly promoted to the first division team.

He spent 16 years of his career playing for Real Madrid and is the club's second all-time top goalscorer with 323 goals.[5] Raúl is also the most capped player in the history of the club with 741 appearances, ahead of Manolo Sanchís. With Los Blancos, Raúl won six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League titles, scoring in two finals, four Supercopa de España titles, one UEFA Super Cup and two Intercontinental Cup. He is the third highest goalscorer in Champions League history, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and the fifth most capped player. In 2003, he was appointed captain of the team and retained that position until his departure from the club in 2010.

In La Liga competitions, Raúl is the fifth-highest goalscorer in the history of the competition with 228 goals, behind Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Telmo Zarra and fellow Real Madrid legend Hugo Sánchez. He is also the highest Spanish scorer in European leagues, with 256 goals, scoring 228 goals in La Liga and 28 goals in the Bundesliga. He is also the second-most capped player in the history of the Spanish competition, with 550 matches played, just behind Andoni Zubizarreta (622 matches). Leaving Real Madrid in 2010 and signing for Schalke 04, he scored the 400th goal of his career in February 2012.[6] He signed with the Qatari club Al Sadd in 2012. He won the Qatar Stars League in his first season and he reached 1,000 matches played in his career,[7] 1 of only 18 players to have achieved this landmark.[106]

Although he did not win any major competitions while playing for the Spain national team, he scored a then-record 44 goals in 102 appearances for la Roja, appearing in three FIFA World Cups and two European championships. Raúl took over the captaincy of the side in 2002 and held it until 2006, the year in which he played his last international match for Spain.

Raúl was named the best striker in the world by International Federation of Football History & Statistics in 1999, and is the only player to be named UEFA Club Forward of the Year three times, in 2000, 2001 and 2002.[8] He ranked second in the Ballon d'Or 2001 and third in the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year.[9] In 2004, he was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players, and was included in the UEFA list of the 50-best European players of the 1954–2004 period. He was part of the European Team of the Year of European Sports Media in 1997, 1999 and 2000.[2] Raúl won two Pichichi trophies (1999 and 2001), the top goalscorer award of the UEFA Champions League (2000 and 2001), five Don Balón Awards (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and one Best Player Award at the Intercontinental Cup in 1998.

Club career

Youth clubs

Raúl's career began at his local team CD San Cristóbal de los Ángeles playing for their Alevín team and the Infantil the next season.[11] He signed with Atlético Madrid's Infantil team and won a national title with the Cadete team the following season. Following Atlético's then-president Jesús Gil decision to close their youth academy as a cost-saving measure, Raúl moved on to Real Madrid's Cadete team in La Fabrica. The following season, he was promoted to the Juvenil C team and subsequently went on to play for their Juvenil B and Juvenil A team.[13]

Real Madrid

He started his professional career in the 1994–95 season with Real Madrid C;[2] he scored 16 goals in just seven games and was swiftly promoted to the first team by coach Jorge Valdano, replacing Emilio Butragueño in a symbolic "passing of the crown." He became the youngest player – 17 years and 124 days – ever to play for the senior side, though the record was broken by Alberto Rivera later that same season. On 29 October 1994, in an away game against Real Zaragoza at La Romareda, he created a goal for strike partner Iván Zamorano, heralding the demise of Butragueño in the process. The very next week, Raúl scored his first goal in his second senior game on a home debut against Madrid rivals and former youth club Atlético Madrid in a bitter derby match. Duly establishing himself as a fixture in the first team, Raúl registered a total of nine goals in 28 appearances to help Real Madrid win the 1994–95 league championship in his first season.

With Real Madrid, he won several honours, including further La Liga titles in 1996–97 (scoring 21 La Liga goals), 2000–01 (scoring 24 La Liga goals), and 2002–03 (scoring 16 La Liga goals in a campaign truncated by a bout of appendicitis for which Raúl was hospitalized). During the period from 1998 to 2002, Raúl and Real Madrid also won three UEFA Champions League trophies in 1998, 2000, and 2002. For most of this time, Raúl struck up a prolific scoring partnership with Fernando Morientes and later Ronaldo. Raúl took over the captaincy of Real Madrid when Fernando Hierro was transferred in 2003, a responsibility he held until leaving the club in 2010. Despite appearing in two finals, in 2002 (in which he scored) and 2004, Raúl never lifted the Copa del Rey.

He became the first player to score 50 Champions League goals when he converted in a 2–1 group stage win over Olympiacos on 28 September 2005,[2] and continues to be the all-time leader in appearances, with 128.[2] He was also the first player to score in two Champions League finals, netting in the finals of both 2000 against Valencia in the Stade de France, Saint-Denis, and 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen in Hampden Park, Glasgow. Samuel Eto'o later equaled this feat, scoring in the 2006 against Arsenal and in 2009 against Manchester United, with Lionel Messi also scoring in the same match and later in 2011 against the same team.

Raúl holds the distinction of having never received a red card throughout his 17 years at the professional level.[2] On 11 November 2008, Raúl scored his 300th goal for Real Madrid with a hat-trick against Real Unión, with Real winning the match 4–3 but being eliminated on away goals after draw 6–6 on aggregate.[2] In total, Raúl scored 323 goals for Real Madrid, breaking the long-standing club record of Alfredo Di Stéfano (307) with a volleyed goal against Sporting de Gijón on 15 February 2009. He is presently fifth on the all-time list of La Liga goalscorers, behind Argentine Lionel Messi, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, Spaniard Telmo Zarra and Mexican Hugo Sánchez.[3]

Image
Raúl being substituted by Cristiano Ronaldo during a match in November 2009. Ronaldo would wear the #7 jersey at Real Madrid after Raúl's departure in 2010.

Raúl and fellow long-serving teammate Iker Casillas were both awarded "contracts for life" in 2008, the terms of which stipulate the contract will be renewed annually for as long as they play 30 matches each season.[3] On 23 September 2009, Raúl equalled former veteran and legend Manolo Sanchís' league appearance record for Real Madrid,[3] and is second in La Liga behind Andoni Zubizarreta, who played in 622 matches.

Along with years of captaincy for both Real Madrid and Spain, Raúl was known as "El Capitan" ("The Captain").[3]

Raúl's last touch with the ball as Real Madrid player before an injury ruled him out of action for the rest of that season was to score his last goal, an opening goal scored on 24 April 2010 in a 2–1 away victory against Real Zaragoza in La Romareda, coincidentally the stadium where he made his debut in 1994. It was scored in the 50th minute after Raúl (himself only on the pitch as a substitute for Rafael van der Vaart after 15 minutes) had signalled he could not physically continue and was prepared to be substituted off for Karim Benzema one minute after the goal.[3] Before the substitution could be made, Real Madrid launched a counter-attack to create a goal. Though Raúl ran to a slow hobble, he shuffled into the box and was able to poke the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo's pass.

Having spent the rest of the season recovering from that injury, the club confirmed on 25 July 2010 that Raúl would be leaving the club, a day after his teammate Guti confirmed he was also leaving after a 15-year spell.[24]

Schalke 04

Raúl signed a two-year contract with Schalke 04 on 28 July 2010. Schalke head coach Felix Magath hailed the signing and told the club website, "It's great news for FC Schalke 04, I am pleased that we have succeeded in signing such an exceptional footballer and world-class striker switching to the Bundesliga for Schalke 04."[25] Previously, it was expected Raúl would have finished his career in the United States or Qatar, and that he also received a lucrative offer from an unnamed Russian club. Raúl chose Schalke because they qualified for the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League.[26]

Raúl scored his first goal for the club during his first match on 1 August 2010 with a brace in a 3–1 victory over Bayern Munich in the final match pre-season competition LIGA total! Cup 2010. One week later, he made his competitive debut in the 2010 DFL-Supercup on 7 August 2010 again against Bayern, but this time he failed to score in the 2–0 defeat. Raúl made his Bundesliga debut on 21 August 2010 in a 2–1 defeat against Hamburger SV.[3] and scored his first goal for Schalke in the Bundesliga against Borussia Mönchengladbach on 25 September 2010 in a 2–2 draw.[3] After a quiet start, he rediscovered his goalscoring form in the Bundesliga with a brace against FC St. Pauli on 5 November in a 3–0 win, and on 20 November, he scored his first hat-trick for the club in a 4–0 win over Werder Bremen. On 18 December, he scored his second hat-trick for Schalke in a 3–0 win against 1. FC Köln.

Image
Raúl in his last match with Real Madrid against Real Zaragoza

Raúl scored another crucial goal on 2 March 2011 in a 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the semi-final of 2010–11 DFB-Pokal. After being absent for six years, Schalke ultimately reached the finals since 2005. In the final match, they played against MSV Duisburg, the first 2. Bundesliga team which reached the final since 2004. Raúl never won a domestic cup with Real Madrid (the Copa del Rey), but on 21 May 2011, in his first season, he finally won a domestic cup and got his maiden trophy with his new club. They won the tournament with a 5–0 win at the Olympiastadion, Berlin. This success was followed with victory two months later on 23 July 2011 in the 2011 DFL-Supercup against the league champions and rivals Borussia Dortmund.

In European play, Raúl has since become the highest goal scorer in all UEFA competitions with 73 goals, ahead of Milan veteran Filippo Inzaghi with 70 goals. He scored 71 goals in Champions League (66 goals with Real Madrid and five with Schalke 04) and addition his two goals with Los Blancos, one goal in 2000 UEFA Super Cup and the other one in 1998 Intercontinental Cup. On 22 October 2010, Raúl scored twice against Hapoel Tel Aviv in a 3–1 win, which tied him with German legend Gerd Müller for the most number of European goals. Raúl duly broke this record on 15 February 2011 on his return to Spain with a crucial away goal in the round of 16 tie against Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium in a 1–1 draw.

In the quarter-finals, Raúl scored two goals against Internazionale: one goal in the first leg, a 5–2 away win at the San Siro, and one in the second leg, a 2–1 home win at the Veltins-Arena. Schalke progressed to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history, where they played against Manchester United. Schalke lost the first match 2–0, which was their first home defeat this season in the tournament, and lost again 4–1 in Old Trafford. Despite the defeat, Raúl considered it an honour he had swapped shirts with Ryan Giggs.[26] On 19 November 2011, he captained Schalke for the first time due to an injury to Benedikt Höwedes in a 4–0 home win against 1. FC Nürnberg. He also scored the second goal and assisted the fourth in that match.

Raúl scored another hat-trick against Werder Bremen on 17 December 2011.[4] The goals came in a 5–0 win that cemented Schalke's position in third place going into the winter break.[4] On 19 February 2012, he scored the 400th goal of his career, at that time, 323 with Real Madrid, 44 with Spain and 33 with Schalke.[4] On 5 April 2012, in the second leg UEFA Europa League match against Athletic Bilbao, he scored his 77th goal in a European competition.

At a press conference on 19 April 2012, Raúl announced he would leave Schalke after his contract expired in June, and that "[his] future is not in Europe".[4] Raúl had such an impact at Schalke that, on his departure, the club opted to retire the number 7 shirt for an indefinite period.[4] However, in 2013, the number 7 shirt was eventually reinstated and given to Max Meyer, Schalke's new prodigy.[4]

Al Sadd

Image
Raúl in a training session with Schalke 04 in August 2011

On 12 May 2012, it was announced Raúl had signed a deal with Qatari side Al Sadd for the 2012–13 Qatar Stars League season.[21][4] He played his first competitive match for the club on 5 August in the 2012 Sheikh Jassem Cup, scoring a penalty in extra time in order to secure a 2–0 win against Mesaimeer.[4] The veteran also took on the role of captain after Abdulla Koni was substituted.[4] On 13 April 2013, Raúl captained Al Sadd to the 2012–13 Qatar Stars League title. Raúl scored 9 goals in 22 appearances to help Al Sadd win their first title in five years.[5] He was also presented with the post-season QFA-sanctioned Fair Play Award in May 2013.[5]

On 22 August 2013, Raúl played for Real Madrid in the first half of the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu and scored in the 23rd minute. He then played the second half for Al Sadd as Real Madrid won 5–0.[5] On 5 March 2014, Raúl announced he would retire from professional football at the end of the Qatari football season, marking the end of a 20-year-long senior career.[5]

New York Cosmos

On 30 October 2014, Raúl returned to professional football and signed with the New York Cosmos in the United States.[5] He made his North American Soccer League (NASL) debut on 4 April 2015 in a 1–0 win at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, partially owned by his former Real Madrid strike partner Ronaldo, leaving with a hamstring injury in the second half.[5] The following week, at the Indy Eleven, he scored his first goal to equalise in a 1–1 draw.[5] Raúl scored four times as the undefeated Cosmos won the spring season with five wins and five draws.[5]

On 16 October 2015, it was announced Raúl would retire at the end of the season.[5] The Cosmos finished with the best regular season record, winning the North American Supporters' Trophy. On 7 November, he scored the winning goal as his team came from behind to win 2–1 against the Strikers in the semi-finals, earning a place at Soccer Bowl 2015, which his team won 3–2 against the Ottawa Fury eight days later. He communicated his decision to retire following the conclusion of the Soccer Bowl.[5]

International career

Raúl began his Spain career at youth level and represented the nation at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 1995, scoring three goals from five matches. He was also part of the under-21 side that reached the final of the 1996 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and even scored his side's temporary equaliser in the final, although he later missed his penalty in the resulting shoot-out, which was won by Italy.[6] In total, he scored 17 goals at the various youth levels for Spain. With the senior team, Raúl went on for many years to score a national record 44 goals in 102 caps for Spain. However, David Villa later equaled Raúl's record in 2010 and surpassed it on 25 March 2011 in a UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier. Of his 44 international goals, Raúl scored 32 goals in competitive matches, six of which were in the finals of major tournaments and 12 from friendly matches.

1998 FIFA World Cup

Raúl earned his first senior cap against the Czech Republic on 9 October 1996, playing the full 90 minutes of a goalless draw in 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification at the Letná Stadion in Prague. In his third match, on 14 December against Yugoslavia at the Mestalla Stadium, he recorded his first international goal in a 2–0 qualifying win. At the final tournament in France, Raúl featured in every match as Spain were eliminated from Group D. He scored in their opening match to put them 2–1 up in an eventual 2–3 loss to Nigeria in Nantes.[6]

UEFA Euro 2000

On 27 March 1999, in a UEFA Euro 2000 qualifier, Raúl scored four goals in Spain's 9–0 rout of Austria.[6] Four days later, he scored three goals in a 6–0 away win against San Marino during the same qualifying tournament.[6] On 5 June, against the same opponents in Villarreal, he was again on target in a 9–0 rout.[6] Raúl played every minute of Spain's Euro 2000 finals campaign in Belgium and the Netherlands, opening their 2–1 win over Slovenia at the Amsterdam Arena[6] before a quarter-final elimination by eventual champions France, in which Raúl missed a last minute penalty which would have taken the tie to extra-time.[6]

2002 FIFA World Cup

At the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Raúl opened a 3–1 win over the Slovenes in Spain's first Group B match,[6] and added two more in a 3–2 win over South Africa in Daejeon to advance as group winners.[6] He suffered a groin injury in the round of 16 win over the Republic of Ireland,[6] and missed the remainder of the tournament, in which Spain went out to South Korea in the quarter-finals.

UEFA Euro 2004

On 7 September 2002, Raúl scored in a 2–0 away win over Greece in Euro 2004 qualifying, putting him on 29 goals in 56 internationals, equalling the national goalscoring record set by the recently retired Fernando Hierro.[7] He broke the record on 12 February 2003 when he scored twice in a 3–1 friendly win over Germany at Son Moix in Palma, Mallorca.[7] He started every match at the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal, a group stage exit.

2006 FIFA World Cup

Raúl earned his 89th cap on 8 October 2005 in a 2–0 away win over Belgium in 2006 World Cup qualifying, levelling with Hierro as Spain's most-capped outfield player.[7] However, he played less frequently across the campaign as new manager Luis Aragonés preferred to partner David Villa and Fernando Torres.

At the final tournament in Germany, he came on at half-time for Luis García in the second group match in Stuttgart, with Spain trailing Tunisia 0–1. When goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel could not retain Cesc Fàbregas' shot in the 72nd minute, Raúl equalised from close range as Spain eventually won 3–1.[7]

On 15 August 2006, Raúl won his 100th cap for Spain, in a goalless friendly draw with Iceland in Reykjavík.[7] He was last chosen for the national team on 6 September, in a 3–2 defeat against Northern Ireland in Belfast, a match in which he hit the post late on.[7]

Style of play

Image
Raúl with Schalke in 2011

A prolific goalscorer and a highly creative forward, Raúl is regarded as one of the greatest and most consistent strikers of his generation.[65][7][7] Wearing the number 7 jersey for most of his club and international career, he was capable of playing anywhere along the front line, although he was primarily deployed as a centre-forward, or as a supporting striker.[68] Raúl was a quick, left-footed player, who was capable of scoring both in and outside the penalty area with his accurate and powerful shot.[68] He possessed excellent ball control and technical ability, and was effective in the air as well as with his feet.[68]

Although primarily renowned for prolific goalscoring, Raúl was also a highly creative and hardworking player, capable of playing off of his teammates, creating chances and assisting goals,[65][106] and was occasionally deployed as an attacking midfielder in his later career.[106] In addition to these characteristics, Raúl is remembered for his leadership and discipline – throughout his extensive career, he never received a red card, and he was rarely booked.[106][106] For his technical skills, elegance, goalscoring and performances, he was nicknamed "El Ferrari", or "The Ferrari," by compatriot Fernando Hierro, another emblematic Real Madrid player.[106]

Media

Raúl has been sponsored by German sportswear company Adidas during his career and has appeared in Adidas commercials.[73] He has advertised Adidas Predator football boots, and in 2004 he starred in an Adidas commercial featuring a number of other stars on mopeds, including Zinedine Zidane, Michael Ballack, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet.[73]

Raúl has featured in Pepsi commercials, including an advertisement for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan where he lined up alongside players including David Beckham, Roberto Carlos and Gianluigi Buffon in taking on a team of Sumo players.[106]

Personal life

Throughout his career, Raúl's goal celebration consisted of kissing his wedding ring as an acknowledgment to his wife Mamen Sanz, whom he married in 1999 and with whom he has four sons and a daughter: Jorge, Hugo, twins Héctor and Mateo,[106] and María.[106] Jorge and Hugo are both footballers; Jorge at Fordham Preparatory School in New York City[106] and Hugo in New York City FC's academy.[8]

Career statistics

Club

ClubSeasonLeagueCup1Continental2Other3Total
DivisionAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
Real Madrid C1994–952nd Div. B716716
Real Madrid B1994–952nd Div.1010
Real Madrid1994–95La Liga28921003010
1995–9640192186205226
1996–974221514722
1997–9835101022304913
1998–9937252083214929
1999–20003417401510425729
2000–01362400127215032
2001–02351466126235529
2002–03311620129204725
2003–0435117692215320
2004–05329101044313
2005–062650062327
2006–0735710754312
2007–0837181085204823
2008–0937181373204724
2009–103052072397
Total5502283718132662211741323
Schalke 042010–11Bundesliga341341125105119
2011–12321532114104721
Total662873239209840
Al Sadd2012–13QSL229123003412
2013–141725250274
Total3911175506116
New York Cosmos2015NASL2882021329
Total2882021329
Career total6912916326160752612940404
1 Played in Copa del Rey with Real Madrid and DFB-Pokal with Schalke 04 and Qatari Stars Cup, Sheikh Jassem Cup with Al Sadd and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with New York Cosmos.
2 Played in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League with Real Madrid and Schalke 04 and AFC Champions League with Al Sadd.
3 Includes other competitive competitions, including the Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup with Real Madrid and DFL-Supercup with Schalke 04 and NASL Championship with New York Cosmos..

International goals

Raúl has who made 102 appearances for Spain between 1996 and 2006. He is Spain's second highest goalscorer only behind David Villa. He scored 44 goals from 102 matches

Honours

Image
Raúl unveiled as an Al Sadd player in May 2012

Club

Real Madrid
Schalke 04
Al Sadd
New York Cosmos

Individual

Records

*Includes other European competitive competitions, including the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup.
^^Includes other European competitive competitions and Intercontinental Cup.
  • Has not received a red card in entire career

Decorations

See also