Friday 19 January 2018

The real Raul by those who know him best

Luis Villarejo, friend and biographer:

"Raul treats his body like it is a machine. Every day, he does whatever he needs to do -- diet, training, whatever -- to make sure it is in perfect working order. He lives for football, thinks about nothing else.

"That is down to how competitive he is as a person. Even as a child, he had to be a better player than everyone else, to have scored more goals than everyone else. He might not be the quickest player, he might not be the tallest or the strongest or the best in the air, but he is a born winner.

"That is something he transmits to his team-mates. He has a sort of contagious optimism, an ability to give other people his winning values. That is what has happened at Schalke, which seemed a strange match for him. But they are in the Champions League, and he sees that as his competition. His presence makes them dangerous for any opponent."

Jefferson Farfan, Schalke team-mate:

"It is a beautiful thing to be able to call a player like him a team-mate. When I was growing up in Peru, I used to watch him in the Champions League, playing for Real Madrid. That was more than 10 years ago. Now I am playing alongside him, and that is an honour.

"He is great to have around for all of us. In training, he is always helping us improve everything we can and he supports all of us on the pitch during matches, because he has so much experience.

"What is the secret to him surviving so long at such a high level? That he has done so much in his career is because of the character he has, because of his power (as a player) and his focus. They are the most important things."

Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid director of football:

"He has exceeded all expectations from the moment he made his debut (at Schalke) to today, firstly by accepting the challenge of going to Germany and then by completing an exceptional season.

"Thanks to all he has done in world football, we are used to his ability to confound expectations and all we can do is tip our hat to him for everything he has done for football in general and Spain in particular. Does he deserve to return to the national side? That is a question for Vicente del Bosque. He is a great player, but it is not up to me to find him a place anywhere."

Jose Manuel Jurado, Schalke team-mate:

"He takes such good care of his body, that is why he is still one of the best strikers in the world. He has the appetite he had when he started playing all those years ago, and all he thinks about is scoring goals. There is nothing else he wants to do.

"It is great to have our own Galactico here. We can learn so much from everything that he has achieved. Everything is so much easier with him on the pitch. It is an honour for all of us to play with someone like that, especially in the Champions League. He is a historic player in this competition. When I was growing up, he was my example, the person I wanted to follow. He played for Real Madrid, but everyone looks up to him. It does not matter if you are a Barcelona fan or an Atletico Madrid fan or a Real fan. Raul is on another plain."

Jupp Heynckes, former Real Madrid manager:

"Schalke can get in the final simply because they have Raul. He is incredible, a stupendous person. He carries himself like a worker when he's a star. Everyone in Spain thought he would struggle in the Bundesliga, but I knew he would do well. I know his personality. It is so impressive.

"I have a player (at Bayer Leverkusen) who tells me so many stories, really positive stories, about what he is like in the dressing-room.

"He is one of the game's greats, one of the best we have seen in the last 15 years. He does not get as much recognition as a (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo, but that is because he thinks only about the team."

Irish Independent

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