Raul: The legendary No. 7's career in seven goals
Former Real Madrid's legendary No. 7 Raul Gonzalez called time on his glittering 21-year career on Sunday (Nov 15) by helping the New York Cosmos clinch the North American Soccer League Bowl.
The 38-year-old striker played a crucial role in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Fury by chipping in with an assist for hat-trick hero Gaston Cellerino's third goal in the 85th minute.
It was a fitting end for the man known as El Siete (The Seven in Spanish) and El Angel del Madrid (The Angel of Madrid), who first burst onto the football scene in 1994 as the 17-year-old who replaced Emilio Butragueno during Real's 3-2 defeat at Real Zaragoza.
Even though he failed to score on his debut, Raul managed to set up a goal for strike partner Ivan Zamorano. A week later, the gangly teenager earned his full home debut and scored against former club Atletico Madrid in a 4-2 derby win at the Bernabeu.
It was the first of many that would contribute to the legend of Raul.
During his 16 years at Real, the attacker amassed an impressive collection of trophies, including six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles and four Spanish Super Cups.
Raul wasn't fazed as he took to the biggest club stage in Europe as he scored in two of those final triumphs.
While he opened the scoring in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen as Real went on to claim a 2-1 win, Raul's 75th-minute goal against Valencia in 2000 displayed the composure that he had in big games as he ran nearly three-quarters of the pitch before calmly rounding goalkeeper Santiago Canizares to roll the ball into the net.
As befitting of a club legend, Raul, who captained the team from 2003 till his departure in 2010, was also a record breaker at Real.
While he has since been surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul became Los Blancos all-time top scorer in 2009 when he overtook Alfredo di Stefano's tally of 307 with a poacher's volley against Sporting Gijon.
He would end his career at Real with a total of 323 goals and he is still their all-time appearance maker with 741 appearances in the iconic white shirt.
Described by fellow Real great Fernando Hierro as "not a 10 out of 10 in anything but he was an eight-and-a-half in everything", Raul was not the most naturally-talented player but made up for it through hard work and power of will.
As a Spanish international, the forward became his country's top scorer in 2003 when he scored in a friendly against Germany in a 3-1 win.
By the time he made his final appearance for Spain in 2006, Raul had scored 44 goals – a record which stood till until it was broken by David Villa in 2011 – and collected 102 caps for La Roja.
Even as his time at Real drew to a close, Raul ended his stunning career with his boyhood club in 2010 the only way he knew how – with a goal.
Despite signalling to the bench moments before that he was injured and unable to continue in a match against Real Zaragoza, the Real captain still found it in him to arrive late in the penalty area to pounce on a cross in the 50th minute and break the deadlock, paving the way for a 2-1 win.
The goal proved to be Raul's final touch of the ball as a Real player with the injury ruling him out for the rest of the season before he moved to Bundesliga side Schalke on a free transfer.
Even though he was considered to be past his best at 33, Raul continued to demonstrate his class by netting 40 goals in just under 100 appearances for the Royal Blues.
His delightful chip over Michael Rensing for Schalke's fourth goal in a 5-1 thrashing of Cologne was voted the Goal of the Year in Germany.
After failing to win a domestic cup competition with Real, Raul finally lifted his first cup trophy when he helped Schalke to win the German Cup in 2011, ending the German club's nine-year wait for silverware.
While he initially called time on his career following a two-year spell in Qatar with Al Sadd in April 2014, his initial retirement didn't last long as he signed up with the New York Cosmos in October that same year.
Even though the Spaniard failed to score in the championship final, the Cosmos may not have been in the final if not for Raul, who scored the winner in a 2-1 semi-final win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
And with that, the curtain was brought down upon the career of one of the finest goalscorers the Beautiful Game has ever seen.
After the game, Raul said: "It was my last game in my career.
"I'm very proud of everything I did. For me now, I start a new life with another project. I'm happy, but I'm also very sad."
Sources: The Guardian, YouTube, BBC
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