In the opening instalment of his exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Raul spoke of his motives for joining New York Cosmos and the challenges he has set himself in the USA. Now in part two, the Spaniard talks about the Real Madrid No7 jersey and the player who inherited it from him, changing fortunes in the Madrid derby and the titles that eluded him in a stellar international career.
FIFA.com: Your famous No7 jersey, previously worn by some of Real Madrid’s all-time greats, has now passed to Cristiano Ronaldo. A worthy heir, surely?
Raul: In his time at the club he’s become a hugely important player for us. Of course he was already a great player before he arrived, which is why the club paid so much money to get him from Manchester United. All of us Madrid fans are delighted with his performances. He’s won two Ballon d’Or awards [Ed’s note: he’s won three in total, but his first was while at United] and hopefully he can continue to deliver the goods every season and help the team achieve their goals.
In recent years Atletico have enjoyed a lot of success in the Madrid derby, but during your time Los Blancos were by far the dominant side. How do you view Atletico’s success of late?
These things go in cycles. Before this we had an era when Real Madrid were winning, although these derby games have always been difficult. In the most recent ones, Atletico have had the upper hand, and very deservedly. You simply have to keep working as there is still a long way to go in the season. We’re just starting the knockout rounds of the Champions League and it’s from here on in that La Liga will be decided. Madrid have the squad and players to be able to rally and compete for those titles.
I played for the national team for ten years, so our course I’d love to have won the European Championship and World Cup.
You set no end of records in La Liga and the Champions League, including most games and goals with Real Madrid. You also became the all-time top scorer in European competitions and with the national team. How does it feel to see those records falling now, one by one?
Well, it was just a matter of time. For me, all records are made to be broken. I’m happy with, and proud of, everything I’ve achieved – of each game and each goal that helped the teams I played for. I knew full well that others would come along and surpass those numbers. We’re also talking about the era of Messi and Ronaldo, two players who are already considered among the greatest of all time.
You’ve achieved a great deal in your career to date, but what’s been the most special moment?
There are many. I was at Madrid for 17 years so there are a lot of memories – the people, the friends I still have there. It’s very hard for me to single out just one. Likewise with Schalke. Even though I was only there two years, I received great affection from the first day to the last. My farewell there was very moving, and their gesture of retiring the No7 jersey for a year was very gratifying.
Last but not least, when you look back now on your time with the national team, is there a feeling of unfinished business?
I played for the national team for ten years, so our course I’d love to have won the European Championship and World Cup (laughs). But football goes in cycles and it wasn’t my turn to be there when they won. I proudly defended the colours of Spain during my time and always tried my hardest. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on our side in that period – it was to come a bit later. That said, as a fan I’ve really enjoyed all the success we’ve had, as it’s what Spanish football deserved. Now, though, after [what happened at] the last World Cup, we need to continue working hard. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but Spain will continue to compete at the highest level because we have very good players. Of that I have no doubt.