Tribute to Raul

Raul scored a penalty goal against Espanyol making it 200 La Liga goals joining an elite group of players that have scored 200 and more including ex Real stars, Hugo Sanchez and Alfredo Di Stefano.

The «king of Spain» as I like to call him is the 5th highest goal scorer ever in La Liga and he needs 52 more goals to be all time leading goalscorer.

It is debatable if he would ever achieve this honour as he is 30 years of age now and he is not getting any better. Some would say he is back to his best as he is having a good season but if the truth be told he has peaked and at this point in time he is just the best that he can be not back to his very best.

He has had 3 wasted years where I feel that he would have easily been the league’s highest ever goalscorer by now if not for that period. His problems seem to start from the obsession of Real Madrid presidents had with the so called galaticos. A term used to describe football players of immense popularity and marketing ability.

This was fine with the acquisitions of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane as they always played the ball on the ground and depended more on skill than pace which was fine with Raul.

By the time, Ronaldo and then David Beckham were bought then Real’s style of play changed with Beckham always looking for the long accurate punts that suited the more athletic and quick Ronaldo than it did Raul. Raul found himself being part of a cog to feed Ronaldo rather than in a system that suited his style of play. It was alleged that he fell out of love with the game and his damaging knee ligaments did not help his mood either. All in all it was a bad time at Madrid with there been reports of 2 camps. Raul, Guti, Michel Salgado and others said to be in 1 and Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Robinho and others said to be in the other although Carlos was more friendly towards the Raul camp than Ronaldo was.

The arrival of Fabio Capello and the subsequent leaving of Ronaldo helped to alleviate the tension at Real Madrid as far as raul was concerened and he appeared to get back his appetite for the game.

It is no coincidence that this season with Raul playing where he likes and mainly just supporting Ruud Van Nistlerooy that his goal output has improved again because last season under Fabio Capello, even though his fitness improved he was played far from the opposition’s goal as it was either in midfield or in the wings.

It has been said in the past and even Guillem Ballague, sky sports’ Spanish football expert stated that Raul is a player that is not a perfect 10 in any capacity as he felt Raul could not dribble, did not possess great pace or could use his right foot.

I have heard all this before labelled against Raul that he did not excel with any particular attribute but I disagree strongly. At his best and that was before Alex Ferguson put the kibosh on his career by labelling him the best player in the world after he tore apart Manchester United; he was the most intelligent striker in the world as he seemed to have a computer for a brain.

He knew instinctively when to lob a goalkeeper or when to round him and he really should have won the European footballer of the year on countless occasions. After all if Michael Owen can be awarded such an award then so should Raul.

He may not have been blessed with blistering pace and frankly I do not understand some people’s obsession with pacy players but he was a great player when he was at his very best. He could dribble past opponents on a 1 on 1 basis as much as any striker out there and his 1st touch was better than any striker out there save for Alessandro Del Piero of Juventus.

Perhaps he could not go past 3 or 4 opponents and unlike players like Thierry Henry, he could not exploit space afforded him because of his lack of blistering pace but unlike Henry he could exploit a modicum of room afforded him as he could turn on a sixpence and make something happen out of nothing.

He is the highest ever goalscorer in the Champions’ league with 61 goals and his country’s highest goalscorer with 44 goals in 102 matches. He is widely respected in Spain and I guess by the whole football community as 1 of the greatest if not the greatest Spanish player of all time.

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