Madrid: Over the last 15 years world-class stars have come and gone at Real Madrid but local hero Raul has outlasted them all.
And the 32-year-old striker wrote another piece of history on Saturday, becoming the all-time leading appearance holder with his 711th game in the Real shirt in their 4-2 win over Valladolid.
Before the game Raul was presented with a trophy for his landmark appearance and the forward scored twice to celebrate beating the appearance record of defender Manolo Sanchis, who amassed 710 games between 1983 and 2001.
“I am going to complete 15 years since I made my debut and back then it was difficult to imagine I would reach this number of games,” admitted Raul.
“I am really happy with how everything turned out and have the desire to carry on and continue helping my team-mates and the club win important trophies. All my memories are special for the people that helped me, my family who have always been at my side and the people that had faith in me.”
Raul, who was originally on Atletico Madrid’s books, made his Real debut back in 1994 and has gone on to lift six league titles and three Champions League crowns - 1998, 2000, 2002.
In addition to team honours Raul has set goalscoring and appearance records in the domestic league, Europe and on the international stage. Raul is Real’s all-time top La Liga scorer with 226 goals and the leading scorer in the Champions League since its inception in 1992.
For Spain, Raul holds the national record of 44 goals and is still technically available for selection although he has been overlooked since winning the last of his 102 caps back in September 2006.
Unlike his new team-mates Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul has never won the Ballon D’Or but his longevity and leadership skills are held in high regard.
“As club captain Raul is the perfect example to us all,” said team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa.
Raul was typically down-to-earth about his personal achievements and said it was important that Real focussed on Wednesday’s Champions League group match against AC Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I am thinking about Wednesday as we have another important European game (against AC Milan) and we have to prepare for it,” said Raul.
“It was a good win against Valladolid and a much-needed one. Matches after the international break can be dangerous so we are glad to come away with the three points.”
Real have had to integrate a number of new players this summer and captain Raul pleaded for patience from the demanding supporters.
“We are not consistent over the 90 minutes but people have to be patient,” said Raul.
“It’s a new project for us with different personnel and different ideas than before so people have to be patient. We have only lost one game in Sevilla and the season is a long one.”