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His arrival in 2010 was surprising and beautiful. Not only for his new club but also for a whole league. As he told the media yesterday to leave in the end of the season, the fans weren’t less surprised, not to say shocked. I’m talking about Raul, Schalke’s star who has announced not to only leave Schalke, but also Europe after the final whistle of the season. The former Real Madrid football icon will probably join Al-Ahli (Qatar) to have more time for his family. A recap of his two years in Germany:
World stars are rarely seen in the Bundesliga, they only have a few of them: Ribéry, Robben, perhaps Schweinsteiger, Müller and Gomez but that’s it. This was the record before the 28th of July 2010. On that particular day, Felix Magath, at that moment still manager of Schalke 04, presented the world star par excellence to the German media: Raul. Not only Raul, but THE Raul Gonzalez Blanco, Real Madrid’s legend, best goal scorer in the history of “Los Blancos” and apropos of nothing the best goal scorer in the prestigious Champions League. It actually was a sensation.
Many experts didn’t give much credit to Raul. Old, comfortable, slow, disused and only looking for a lot of money in the last years of his career. Thus a typical, overrated Magath transfer That’s what all football fans did think about him. All football fans? No, there was one little spot on the map of football that did believe in Raul: Schalke 04. Not all, but the majority of their fans trusted in their new number 7.
And he did pay it back. Already in his first match, Raul delighted a whole country and especially the Veltins Arena in the LIGA total! final against the nemesis of every Schalke fan: Bayern Munich. The Spaniard amazingly lobbed the ball over the Bayern keeper what eventually meant the first trophy of the season for the club from Gelsenkirchen even though it wasn’t a significant one. Despite an amazing performance in his first appearance, Raul Gonzalo Blanco still hadn’t convinced every single of his critics.
In the following weeks, Raul managed to do so, though, and soon almost whole Germany was his oyster. Clever passes, a great technique, an unbeaten desire to win every match, run-out; the 34-year-old forward was the bright spot of an often disappointing Schalke team. His great performances were all the more impressive if you consider the whole situation he was exposed to.
Raul came as an almost heartbroken man because Real Madrid didn’t seem to appreciate him anymore. He had been voted out of captaincy under Jose Mourinho and only had only made 9 out of 40 appearances as starter in 2009/2010. Consequently he had only scored 7 goals and assisted 4 more goals because what Raul needs above all (except his family) is playtime. Respect for the legend, who scored 323 goals in 741 games for the self-appointed “best club in the world”, was clearly lacking. Jose Mourinho did want to keep him because of his experience and Raul’s new contract would even have contained an option to have a post in the club after the end of his career, but he did prefer to do sign and work at another club where he’d still get enough playtime.
A world star such as Raul Gonzalez Blanco gets of course a lot of offers once he’s on the market. The Blackburn Rovers, about to be relegated in the English Premier League by now, were highly interested in him for a long time as well as Russian and US clubs, among others. Playing for another Spanish club than Real Madrid has always been ineligible for such a loyal mind as the with-both-feet-strong false nine. Eventually Felix Magath and Schalke were awarded the contract because of the fans, the stadium, the strong league and of course the participation in the Champions League thanks to a strong season in 2009/2010 finishing as runner-ups behind Bayern.
As he arrived in Germany, Raul was exposed to a lot of problems and questions. There weren’t only his critics (someone like Raul actually doesn’t care about them) but also the issue with the new, completely unknown and kind of scaring new language and the question how his beloved family would bear this culture shock. Raul and his family seemed to cope with all these problems pretty well and one month after his first Bundesliga appearance ever, Raul scored his first Bundesliga goal, it was the 2-2 equalizer in the 87th minute against Gladbach.
In the following months, Raul delighted Germany as well as the rest of Europe. He sensationally lead Schalke, meanwhile managed by Ralph Rangnick after Felix Magath had been sacked, to the semis of the Champions League thanks to his winning mentality. Not to forget his 3 crucial scorer points (2 goals, 1 assists) in the quarters against Inter. In the end of last season, Raul had scored 19 goals and given 10 assists in 51 encounters, a very good record for a false nine. Furthermore he won the German cup with Schalke in May 2011.
One of the most remarkable things of Raul’s career in Gelsenkirchen is that he has only missed 3 of 99 official appearances for Schalke in two seasons despite three different managers. He was only undisputed under Felix Magath and had to prove himself under Rangnick and Stevens who were quickly convinced of him thanks to his eagerness, passion, application, experience and – of course – outstanding. football skills. His performances were also noticed in Spain and some even wanted Del Bosque to play him in the Spanish national team again!
In the current season, Raul has been even more impressive. Even though he hasn’t participated with them in the Champions League, he played the first Europa League matches in his glorious career. 4 goals and 3 assists in 11 Europa League games were highlighted by leading Schalke as captain several times. On the 19th of February he even scored his 400th goal of his career – in the 4-1 win against Wolfsburg, managed by Magath. Yet, the second runner-up of the election to the world’s best player in 2001 has scored 20 goals and given 10 assists in 40 official games for Schalke in the current season.
Everyone expected the 34-year-old to play another great season as outstanding false nine of the Bundesliga at Schalke but yesterday Raul officially told the media and his fans about his plans to leave Schalke in the end of the season. It was actually a very emotional presser in which Señor Raul explained his decision. He wants and surely needs to spend more time with his family, the intense Bundesliga and the success with Schalke didn’t allow him much time with his loved ones. He also said that he would have had two amazing years in Germany and that he’ll never forget the great fans. It was “a hard decision”.
One of the best footballers of all time is likely to join Al-Ahly in Qatar where he would earn 9 million Euro a year over 4 seasons and have a lot of free time to spend with his family. He has indirectly denied rumors saying that he would like to join Fortuna Düsseldorf, still playing in the second Bundesliga. It sounds very unlikely but actually the Kicker, a renowned German soccer magazine quoted a close friend to Raul that he would love Düsseldorf (where he has been living for the last two years, Düsseldorf is more beautiful than Gelsenkirchen and not far away) and was thinking about joining that club because his family really enjoyed the centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.
Raul Gonzalez Blanco, the one who had joined Schalke 04 as outgoing legend, will leave the working-class town as the resurrected legend. He has scored 0.41 goals a match for the royal blues and won the DFB Pokal with them. He has contradicted his critics and convinced everyone of the fact that he’s still a great player despite his age. Just saying: he scored 0.44 goals per game for Real and 0.43 for the Spanish national team. The 34-year-old has delighted the Bundesliga for “2 amazing years” but with all due respect, the jersey retirement of the number 7 by Schalke to honor his performances at the Veltins Arena, is an awkward exaggeration. He has only played 2 years for them, after all…
Anyways, I wish Raul and his family only the best for the future, I guess they do deserve it.
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