The emotional scenes from the Bernabeu of Raul’s departure would lead you to believe that the decision to leave, most likely to German club Schalke, was a far from mutual decision. The reaction of the Spanish press would be better spared for the day Raul retires from football which is arguably only two or three seasons away.
On Marca’s, the Spanish sports’ paper, website there is a Raul tribute special; folder after folder of images profiling the career of “lo mejor del ‘7’”, from his early days at Real Madrid through to his stunning goal scoring record in the Champions League. AS had a similar theme with the headline, translated into English, being “When a friend leaves”.
One can’t really imagine this love for a footballer in the United Kingdom. After the World Cup England has just had, it is a struggle to find much affection for many England players, Steven Gerrard being a possible exception.
The most interesting tribute came from Iker Casillas, the new captain of Real Madrid now that Raul has left. Casillas said that:
“(Raul) is a symbol of Real Madrid. An example of a professional and made me grow as a player and as a person.”
It is this intimacy between Raul and Real Madrid that may have been the reason why he has left since Jose Mourinho accepted the job as manager following his triumphs with Inter Milan. Now one is not suggesting that Raul (or Guti, for that matter, who has just signed for Besiktas) was pushed out of the club by Mourinho. But it can be argued, however, that Mourinho is looking at his latest project in a cold, emotionless light. As much as Raul loves Real, and visa versa, he is just simply surplus to requirement now.
It is all very typical of Mourinho, I guess; some would say that letting Raul and Guti go is letting the heart of Real Madrid go. Iker Casillas is still at the club, but he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and has no reason to leave. By taking away someone as symbolic as Raul the club are Real Madrid only by name now, since the players that wear the white jersey could play for anyone.
The way someone can link Ryan Giggs to Manchester United or Steven Gerrard to Liverpool is lost from Real Madrid. He did this as Inter Milan as well; in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich there were no Italians in the starting eleven, compared to the seven players from South America.
At the same time, however, Mourinho is right to show a lack of compassion to this romantic side of football since Mourinho’s job is to win trophies. In the same way you wouldn’t keep a racehorse past his prime, why should Mourinho keep a 33 year old striker? If he was of the standard he was ten seasons ago he would no doubt be in the team, since his affiliation to the club is, if not essential, very useful.
With John Terry at Chelsea, for instance, Mourinho had a leader who understood Chelsea. Ultimately, however, he is shaping his team and if Raul is not part of his plans then Raul is quite right to bow out from the club he loved with memories of him as a superstar, not a permanent substitute, in tact.