Raul Gonzales Blanco, better known as Raul, is a retired Spanish professional footballer who ascended legendary status as a centre forward for Real Madrid.
The 39-year-old is one of the most significant players to have ever donned the white colours of Real Madrid and ranks among the best players to play for Spain.
He was born in the San Cristobal de los Angeles neighborhood of Madrid. He joined his local youth team as a 10 year-old before moving to Atletico Madrid’s youth team in 1990. Following a couple of seasons with Atleti, Raul found a new home in the youth team at Real Madrid.
After a couple of years at the youth level, Raul signed his first professional contract with Real Madrid in 1994. After scoring 13 times in seven appearances for the C side, Raul was fast-tracked to the B team and ultimately to the senior team.
Jorge Valdano was the manager at the los blancos at the time and he was looking for a striker to replace Emilio Butragueno. At 17 years and 124 days of age, Raul became the youngest ever player to play for Real as he made his debut against Real Zaragoza on October 29, 1994. He laid on an assist for Ivan Zamorano on his debut. The following week, Raul netted a goal in a 4-2 win over his former club Atletico Madrid. His first season in the senior side saw Real win the league title as he chipped in with nine goals from 28 appearances.
It was the start of a special journey as the man ended up winning 16 major honours with the All Whites. Raul won three Champions League titles, a couple of Inter-Continental Cups, a European Super Cup, six La Liga titles and four Spanish Super Cups during his 16-year association with Real Madrid. The one trophy that he never won in his time at the los blancos is the Copa Del Rey.
His time at Real Madrid was defined by his brilliant strike partnerships first with Fernando Morientes and then with Ronaldo. Following the departure of Fernando Hierro in 2003, Raul was handed the captain’s armband.
The striker holds the record for being the first man to score 50 or more goals in the Champions League proper. He achieved the feat when he scored in a 2-1 win over Olympiacos on September 28, 2005.
He had also become the first player to score in two Champions League finals when he managed to find the back of the net in both the 2000 final against Valencia as well as the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen. This record was later matched by two Barcelona players – Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi as well as two players from his club – Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Following a trophy-laden 16 years with Real Madrid, Raul moved to Schalke for a couple of seasons in the German Bundesliga. He had finished with 323 goals in 741 appearances for Real Madrid. At the time, he had been the highest scoring player in the history of Real. However, that record has since been broken by Ronaldo, the man who took his number 7 shirt. Raul still holds the record for the most number of senior appearances for the club.
He hit 28 goals in 66 league appearances at Schalke in a couple of seasons before moving to Al Sadd in 2012. Raul won the German Cup and German Super Cup during his time in Gelsenkirchen. The forward spent a couple of seasons in Qatar before signing for American MLS side New York Cosmos before retiring from professional football in 2015.
Raul represented Spain at all age groups before breaking into the senior team in 1996. He scored 44 times in 102 appearances for Spain and held the captaincy between 2002 and 2006. He represented Spain in the FIFA World Cups in France, South Korea & Japan and Germany as well as the Euro 2000 in France and the Euro 2004 in Portugal.