As the sun sets on New York’s Hofstra Stadium, 11,000 fans will bear witness to a testimonial that deserves a global audience. Raúl González Blanco, after a career approaching 1,0000 professional appearances and 400 goals, will solemnly say goodbye to the game he left an indelible mark upon.
The last remnants of sunlight streaking across the FieldTurf, Raúl will bid adieu from Long Island, somehow fading away into one of the most densely populated regions in the United States.
It's almost fitting for the man who outshone Galácticos, staved off perenial naysayers and persisted to achieve the impossible.
Raúl is the consummate professional. No flash and no hyperbole, just consistent goals across the face of the planet.
However, for a career that’s spanned Spanish, German, Qatarian and American soccer, Raúl still feels vastly under appreciated by those whose allegiances lie outside of Madrid and Gelsenkirchen.
Without the marketable power of David Beckham, the elegance of Zinedine Zidane or the freakish ability of Ronaldo, Raúl quietly set about the task of perfecting his game.
While Raúl might not have been a 10 out of 10 in any particular category, he was certainly a 9 out of 10 in everything.
Raúl flourished as simply as the end product he produced.
Positioning, technique, finishing and a veritable footballing brain made Raúl a testament to experienced know-how.
Capped over 100 times for Spain, Raúl won three UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid while scoring 71 goals in the competition. This places him third on the all-time top scorers list behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The original “El Siete,” whose Real Madrid numbers were meant to withstand the test of time, has been usurped by the very nature of the institutions he served so well.
Cristiano Ronaldo has subsequently shattered his goal scoring feats while the Spanish National Team strove forth to their most successful era without his contributions.
A jewel for Madrid, loved at Schalke and now largely forgotten in America’s lower tier, Raúl is one of the last remnants of a previous age sans advertorial guided personalities, flash haircuts and agent driven acrimony.
His time with the national team ended right before all of the incredible success Spain enjoyed between 2008 and 2012. As such, Raúl’s international career will forever be blighted by what he missed out on as opposed to what he accomplished. Dropped by Luis Aragonés prior to Spain’s sensational triumph at EURO 2008, “El Capitán’s” 102 appearances for Spain, and 44 goals, are shaded by the victories he never had the opportunity to taste.
Calls for his recall went unheeded, a scapegoat for an underachieving generation that could never deliver past the group stage.
The 2009-10 season, coupled with missing out on Spain's triumph, marked a particularly dark period in his career. Unable to replicate the deadly form he'd displayed throughout his Real Madrid tenure, Raúl frequently found himself on the outside looking in. Rather than calling it quits, he went on to achieve a remarkable renaissance with Schalke 04, exemplifing his outstanding character.
Reflecting on his illustrious career, Raúl remarked “it’s just a shame that you would need three or four lives to experience everything you want to in football.”
Much like the predatory attributes of the “El Capitán” himself, the opportunity to do as much as possible in a single lifetime has been taken.
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