Raúl González Blanco, 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. 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. Raúl is also the most capped player in the history of the club with 741 appearances, ahead of Sanchís. With Los Blancos, he 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 goal scorer in the history of the tournament 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. Moreover, he is the second most capped player in the history of the Spanish competition, with 550 games played, just behind Andoni Zubizarreta (622 games). Leaving Real Madrid in 2010 and signing for Schalke 04, he scored the 400th goal of his career in February 2012. He signed with the Qatari team Al Sadd in 2012. He won the Qatar Stars League in his first season and he reached 1,000 games played in his career; he is one of only 18 players to have achieved this landmark. Although he did not win any major competitions while playing for the Spanish national football 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 IFFHS in 1999, and is the only player to be named UEFA Club Forward of the Year three times, in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He was the second in the Ballon d’Or 2001 and ranked third in the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year. 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 fifty 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. 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.
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Raúl holds the distinction of having never received a red card throughout his 17 years at the professional level. 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 drawing 6–6 on aggregate. 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. 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. On 23 September 2009, Raúl equalled former veteran and legend Manolo Sanchís’ league appearance record for Real Madrid, 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”).
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A prolific goalscorer and a highly creative forward, Raúl is regarded as one of the greatest and most consistent strikers of his generation. 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. 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. He possessed excellent ball control and technical ability, and was effective in the air as well as with his feet. Although primarily renowned for prolific goalscoring, Raúl was also a highly creative and hardworking player, capable of playing off of his team mates, creating chances, and assisting goals, and was occasionally deployed as an attacking midfielder in his later career. 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. For his technical skills, elegance, goalscoring and performances, he was nicknamed “El Ferrari,” or “The Ferrari,” by compatriot Fernando Hierro, another emblematic Madrid player.
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He started his professional career in the 1994–95 season with Real Madrid C; 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 netted in a 2–1 group stage win over Olympiacos on 28 September 2005, and continues to be the all-time leader in appearances, with 128. He was also the first player to score in two Champions League finals, netting in the finals of both 2000 against Valencia CF 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. On 11 November 2008, Raúl scored his 300th goal for Real Madrid with a hat-trick against Real Unión, with Real winning the game 4–3 but being eliminated on away goals after draw 6–6 on aggregate. 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. Raúl and fellow long-serving teammate Iker Casillas were both awarded “contracts for life” in 2008 (the terms of which stipulate that it will be renewed annually for as long as they play 30 games each season). On 23 September 2009, Raúl equalled former veteran and legend Manolo Sanchís’ league appearance record for Real Madrid, and is second in La Liga behind Andoni Zubizarreta, who played 622 games. Along with years of captaincy for both Real Madrid and Spanish National Football Team, Raúl was known as ‘El Capitan’ (the captain). 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 that he could not physically continue and was prepared to be substituted by Karim Benzema one minute after the goal. 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.
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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. 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. David Villa, however, later equaled Raúl’s record in 2010 and surpassed it on 25 March 2011 in a Euro 2012 qualifier. Of his 44 international goals, Raúl scored 32 goals in competitive games, six of which were in the finals of major tournaments and 12 others on friendly games.
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Raúl has been sponsored by German sportswear company Adidas during his career, and has appeared in Adidas commercials. 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. 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.