Things to Know:
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.
Did you Know?
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.