Monday, July 26, 2010

Gracias 7egend, The Golden Boy of Spain (1995 - 2010)

I wonder how many people back then in the 1990s would've thought that the sprightly boy who initially was part of the Athletico Madrid youth setup and later moved to their bitter and cross town rivals Real Madrid and who drove a nail into the Atleti fans by scoring against them in only his second home game, would be hailed as a Blanco Legend 15 years later. I wonder how many people in the last 2 years actually thought that Raul will leave the club and play for another one. I wonder how many people are thinking about the fact that Raul might play against Real Madrid in this season's UEFA Champions League.

Like most accepted notions, people always took for granted that Raul will retire at Real Madrid. That very fact has been blown to smitherness with Raul departing to play for Schalke 04. Raul was the symbol of the club, the Golden Boy of Spain, so much so was his position in the club that people have always referred to Real Madrid as Raul Madrid. It is indeed a travesty to see this great man don another club's jersey and I'm going to feel very gutted the day I see it happen (as if I dont feel gutted already). I've never been a big Raul fan, but I do know that he epitomized the club. The name Real Madrid was synonymous with this great player and almost no one in today's date can offer to the club that much which Raul has. Raul always delivered on the biggest stage of them all. As he leaves Madrid, he leaves a trail of gold to follow for youngsters aspiring to be like him. He leaves the club as the club's all time top scorer, La Liga's all time top scorer, UEFA Champions League's all time top scorer and the current top scorer for Spain.

Raul was never a pacey striker, neither was he one of them step-over infatuated, flashy kinds of striker. What he had in him was an excellent first touch and an uncanny ability to ghost in thru the opposition's defence and latch on to a thru ball and score, unerringly and effeciently. The sheer number of goals he has scored is testament to that. Raul upheld a long pedigree of number 7s for Real Madrid. From Juanito to Butragueno, the Real Madrid number 7 has always passed on to Spanish players who've gone on to become Legends and Raul kept pace with that long standing tradition. I will always miss Raul for all those moments that he provided and I sincerely wish that he returns back to Madrid. For a guy who never got a red card in 24 long years of service to Football, I can safely say that he'll make a great boardroom director for Real Madrid.

Adios 7egend. Muchas Gracis. Respect.
In Raul's own words...

Before I begin I would like to thank everyone in attendance, and thank you to the president for his kind words. I love football more than anything, and to play for Real Madrid is the best dream I can think of. I feel like a footballer, and I want to continue doing so as long as time and my body permit.

Throughout the years I have always tried to stay true to the values of Real Madrid. Today more than ever before I want everyone to know that I tried to give my very best in every play, every dribble, every shot and every gesture on the pitch. That is what Real Madrid is to me, and that is why the word surrender never existed in my head.

Today is a very emotional day. Today is a day of powerful feelings. Today is a day that cannot do without my gratitude and thanks. It is impossible to name each and every person who over this time have stood by me and helped me. They know I will never forget them because they never let me down and they always stood by me even in the worst of times. Thank you to all the presidents and directors because they always made me feel at home over the last 16 years. Thank you to all the teammates who I shared a dressing room with. Their sacrifice and commitment helped me be a better player. Thank you to all club employees, because they are essential and they make our work easier. Thank you to all the coaches and coaching staff who I shared day-to-day duties with and who I shared victories and defeats with. Thank you to our opponents, because I always felt your respect. It was an honor to play against you. Thank you to the media as well, because whether it was by praise or criticism, you also helped me make it to this point. And thank you to my people. You know who you are because you are always by my side. Thanks Jorge for giving me that first opportunity. For many it was a crazy move by a football poet, and thank you to Florentino Perez, because I know you always search for what is best for this club. I am convinced that this will be a great season and I hope that Real Madrid win many titles this year. Thank you, of course, to the millions of Real Madrid supporters who always want us to win and who suffer with every defeat.

I will never forget that their strength was also my strength and fortitude, and also to the Santiago Bernabeu, where I always felt loved and respected. Thank you everyone for everything and for so much. And finally, thank you from the bottom of my heart to my family, because thanks to them, nothing, not even football, would make any sense.

The time has come to make a decision. I have worn the shirt of the best team in the world for 15 years. I am now 33-years old and it was my last chance to experience playing football outside of Spain. It was a long, hard decision, but this isn't a goodbye, but rather a see you later. I will always support Real Madrid wherever I go.

I want to thank Real Madrid for their patience in allowing me to make this decision
without haste. I have thought about with my family and the club in a calm manner. It was difficult because there was a new coach who counted on my services. I had to look at the situation from a certain perspective. I made a decision and it is a painful one, but I think it is also the correct one.

I have many fond memories and to think of just one is impossible. I think the greatest moment for me was when I got home on Friday 28 October and told my mom that I was traveling to Zaragoza with the first team and that I was going to play. My mom could not hold back her happiness, which was the greatest thing I have ever seen. I will stick with this memory because it was the first, but there have been thousands.

Number '7' is very symbolic for Real Madrid. I am sure that the players who wear it will do so as they should. You must enjoy the moment and not live in the past. What is important is not the number, but rather the crest. That is what I consider most important. The number is important because of its tradition. I am sure that whoever wears the number '7' will do it well.

Jose Mourinho made me think long and hard about my decision. He is a great coach and I have always admired his work. We spoke and he told me that he counted on me and was looking forward to training me. But I decided to make my decision from a different perspective.

I cannot end this speech without sending my love, support and deep admiration to our maestro, Alfredo di Stefano. I hope that one day soon he is able to again sit in
this balcony, from where I am sure that during every match he will want to move
the ball with his eyes and thoughts.

Football is and has been my life. Real Madrid has been my home and here I have experienced unique emotions. Today is the first day of my new life, during which I will try something so complex and difficult as it is to be as immensely happy as I have been at Real Madrid. Many years have gone by since I suited up in white for the first time. With that time now passed and on the day of my farewell, I reassert more than ever my commitment to this club and my loyalty to its values. I will always be available for whatever it needs. Thank you from the bottom of my footballer heart.

Hala Madrid.


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