This new series sharing the stories of how football legends were made begins with the one and only Raúl. The Madridista broke all records during his time with Real and will always be seen as a true great at the Bernabéu.
Born in 1977, Raúl grew up in Madrid’s neighbourhood of San Cristobal de los Angeles. In 1990 Raúl’s father an avid Atletico Madrid supporter sent his son to play for the Rojiblancos’ youth team. He was immediately a starter for the youth team scoring 65 of the team’s 308 total goals; a club record. After a string of economic difficulties Atletico sold Raúl to cross-town rivals Real Madrid following an amazing run of 146 goals in 67 matches.
In 1994, Raúl is transferred to Real Madrid C where he fast proved he was a class above the rest, scoring 16 goals in just seven games. At just 17 years old, Raúl made his debut for Real Madrid, under Jorge Valdano, scoring in his second match against his old club Atletico. The young striker scored 9 league goals in his first season at Los Blancos, and a star was born.
In the following seasons, the Bernabéu faithful saw the rise of a legend, and with the arrival of Fabio Capello in the 1996/1997 season Raúl conquered his second La Liga title. He finished the season with 21 goals in 42 matches and was voted La Liga player of the year. In 1998 Real Madrid went on to win their 7th Champions league, followed by the Intercontinental Cup victory against Vasco de Gama in which he scored what he considers to be the best goal of his career.
On May 23rd 1999, Raúl became the youngest player in history to score his 100th La Liga goal against Tenerife. He eventually went on to win the Pichici trophy with 25 goals in the season. In 2000 Raúl won his second Champions League title, scoring 10 goals and winning the competition’s best player award.
The year 2000 saw the beginning of the Galacticos era with Zidane and Ronaldo, yet again Raúl led the scoring charts. The following year, Raúl won his 3rd Champions League title after a dramatic final against Bayer Leverkusen. The 2002/2003 season was perhaps the best of his career, as the Spanish legend won the European Supercup, Intercontinental Cup, and scored his 200th career goal. In June 2003, Raúl celebrated Real Madrid’s 29th La Liga title, finishing the season with 16 goals, 11 assists, and becoming the club’s youngest captain ever at just 26 years of age. Raúl’s 30th La Liga trophy came in the 2006/2007 season, a year after reaching his 300th goal for the club, and soon after, topping Di Stefano’s record. In 2010 Raúl said goodbye to the ‘camiceta blanca’ having scored 228 times in 550 La Liga appearances.
The following season Raúl signed a two-year contract with Schalke 04 with the aim of beating our AC Milan’s Pippo Inzaghi in the ranking of the best scorers in UEFA competitions. There, he scored 28 times in 66 matches. Raúl finished his career in Europe as the all time UEFA competition goal leader, scoring 74 times.
Raúl is now playing in the American equivalent of the second division with the New York Cosmos where he is continuing to play while also gaining valuable experience as an assistant manager. With his new role, Raúl hopes to pass his winning ways onto the new generation of American footballers. As Raúl moves into the second part of his footballing career we eagerly wait to see how he can impact the beautiful game from the sideline as well.
Raúl was never considered the most skillful or athletic player. His successful career is a testament to his drive and passion for the game. As Valdano once said, “He plays like an angel. Chases everything that moves. Rests only when he has achieved his goal: winning. His pride comes from his desire to win, from giant challenges, he has an extra gene, he is a winner. He is Raúl.”
Real Madrid appearances: 741
Real Madrid goals: 323
UEFA club competition goals: 74
Best scorer ever of European Cups: 73 goals
Most capped player in the history of the Champions League: 144