Raul’s Still Kicking and the UCL Quarters
On the eve of the first legs of Champions League quarter final match-ups, we’re going to look at a few interesting stories and subplots surrounding a few of the teams and players involved. Today we have a little insight (mostly because I’m only capable of insight in very small, sporadic amounts) on Schalke’s Raul. It’s still weird to see his name not attached to Real Madrid.
Forty-four goals in 102 international matches. Not a bad return by any standards. That is what the great Raul Gonzalez accomplished during his time with the Spanish national team over 12 years of selection. Based on my recently acquired 1st grade math skills, that calculates out to just under a goal every other game, which is rather impressive considering the sporadic nature of international matches. Recently, people have been trying to properly position this accomplishment after David Villa broke Raul’s record 44 goals by scoring against Lithuania. Villa now sits at 46 goals, at 29 years of age, and it only took him 72 games. Take nothing away from David Villa. His accomplishments on the international level are mind boggling, but the quality around him is like nothing Raul ever experienced. The likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, and more recently Sergi Busquets, were fringe players at the end of Raul’s international career (or in the case of Busquets, still playing in youth teams).
The one factor which many national sides fail to recognize or are scared to admit (England take note); players just don’t play the same way when they have eight or nine new teammates around them and this is especially true for forwards who thrive on service and delivery. During his time with Spain, Raul never had more than three of his teammates as starting players in the squad, and one of those was the usually the ‘keeper and another a central defender. Instead of being able to perfectly time his runs to the passing and movement of Real players like Guti or David Beckham, Raul was tasked with driving play, dropping back, and creating chances; not exactly an “out and out” striker. There was clearly talent in the squad, but nothing like the nauseating amount of quality that is oozes throughout the current World and European champions. Who knows how many goals Raul could have had for the national team if he had the Barcelona engine room working for him like David Villa has now.
With all that said, it is exciting to see that even though Raul moved on from Spain and Real Madrid over the summer to join Schalke, he is still in the same position in the Champions League as his former club. The Germans face Inter Milan tomorrow and it will be a very interesting match-up. Raul has a penchant for stepping up in big games, most recently in DFB-Pokal tie against Bayern Munich when he scored the winning goal. Schalke’s form has been back and forth domestically and Inter are also coming off a drubbing in the Derby Della Madonnina. Look for Raul to throw back to his days as a Madridista and come up with a crucial away goal at the San Siro.