Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A VERY NICE Article on El Kapitan

Original Article Here

Raul is Real Madrid's man for all seasons
Outside Real Madrid's Bernabeu, they were handing out a free newspaper bearing the front page declaration 'Raul es Eterno'.
.
(By Ian Chadband in Madrid)
.
.
Inside, the man himself was busy simply proving the headline writer's point.
.
For around these parts, Raul Gonzalez Blanco really does seem everlasting; a living, breathing, scoring monument to Real Madrid's glory.
.
And like all monuments, sometimes he can be taken for granted. And sometimes his admirers will even forget what they ever saw in an ageing relic.
.
Then, all of a sudden, maybe with a crucial goal or perhaps the annexation of another extraordinary club landmark, he will remind them and it dawns again why they cannot quite bear to be without him.
.
So it has been this past fortnight as the occasionally invisible legend of 'El Siete' – the blessed No 7 – has been dusted down and allowed to soar again.
.
Almost standing as a symbol of Madrid's rejuvenation under Juande Ramos these past two months, Raul's surpassing of Alfredo Di Stefano's venerated club goalscoring record has knitted the past to an exciting future.
.
At the weekend before the game against Betis, the Bernabeu may have cheered his name just a little louder than usual but there was no great pomp. As they have done for 15 seasons, they just watched the quiet one disappear and then wake them up on cue like a genie.
.
Perhaps it was a mirage but it really did feel as if he touched the ball just three times. Once to perfectly cushion a header to facilitate the opening goal; once to sweep an instantaneous left-footed strike from the D into the net; and once to lob the keeper with an exquisite chip which made a nonsense of the idea that this great goalscorer cannot actually also score great goals.
.
So it was now 311 for Madrid and counting. Maybe on Wednesday, to go with his all-time record of 44 for the Spanish national team, he will take his all-time European Cup record beyond 64 when desperate Liverpool come calling.
.
Rafael Benitez needs no warning that Raul could be his season's ultimate assassin. "From the first day I saw him I knew he was going to be a success," said the Anfield manager, recalling his days as Real Madrid's reserve team manager when this 17-year-old Atletico Madrid supporter made the briefest of stopovers before racing into the first team.
.
Benitez still sees the same "charismatic player with a huge heart and a personality which rubs off on others". So, while the extravagant gifts of Gonzalo Higuain and Arjen Robben must preoccupy him, it is the totemic value of Raul which concerns him more for it reminds him of his own Steven Gerrard.
.
Yet while Gerrard has been colossal for a decade, he has nothing on Raul in the one-man, one-club pantheon. If there was a Mount Rushmore for current footballing wonders, Raul, on 686 appearances for Madrid, would have to be chiselled out alongside Paolo Maldini (890 for Milan over 24 years), Ryan Giggs (789 for United over 18) and perhaps Juventus's Alessandro Del Piero (589 for Juventus over 15).
.
Only next to the defender supreme, the dazzling winger and the artist, wouldn't Raul be the Teddy Roosevelt figure, the one you can never quite remember? Because beyond his kingdom in Madrid, maybe it will always be Raul's lot to have people mutter that they have never quite seen what all the fuss was about.
.
He is good, they will concede, but he never did stir the blood like, say, his old galactico pals, Zidane and Ronaldo. No electric burst of pace, could not dribble, no spectacular thunderbolt shot. You would never say he was the best in the world, would you?
.
Except Alex Ferguson famously did after Raul sliced through United in the Bernabeu in 2003. Fergie saw fancier and flashier players but wondered who on earth was more effective, more industrious and who else always had the knack of being in the right place at the right time? It is why Raul is a players' player.
.
The irony of Ferguson's blessing, though, was that it preceded a bout of appendicitis which appeared to be the trigger for Raul's career to plummet for a couple of seasons to the point where the goals dried up and he pondered quitting in 2005 if it was what the fans and the club wanted.
.
They did not want it, of course. Raul had become too much of an institution there, politically powerful too. Only then, though, did they rediscover the secret of his excellence – that bloody-minded, almost obsessive professionalism which meant he would embrace anything from cryotherapy to kipping in oxygen tents if he felt it could rejuvenate and prolong his career.
.
And so, a bit like David Beckham, only with a quite un-Becks-like aversion to the swirl of celebrity, he thieves on, happy to play in a deeper, more versatile role if required but back to pinching goals at will, 19 all told now this term.
.
He never was as supreme a player as the matchless Di Stefano but maybe time will pronounce that his greatness lay in a consistency of excellence which will be laid out starkly before us in the record books.
.
Heck, he has been around for ever but he is still only 31 and even Alfredo himself reckons his successor could end up with 450 goals. Raul just shrugs that, yes, he may have two, three more years in him. And a hell of a lot more, they laugh in Madrid; why else would they call him the Everlasting One?

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, I've just uploaded my version of the match preview between Liverpool/Real Madrid. Indeed this will be the match of the season for Real, if they ar going to salvage something from this season.

    In my opinion, the main battle will take place in midfield between Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago.

    I know that Diego Maradona will have an eye on this two. Both players are vital for his future plan of our national team.

    Anyway, what do you think about this match? We do appreciate your thoughts on this.

    http://mundoalbiceleste.blogspot.com/2009/03/ucl-first-knockout-round-return-leg.html

    ReplyDelete