Last week, Liverpool were linked with a summer move for Spanish and Real Madrid legend Raul, who would reportedly be available on a free transfer. According to Guillem Balague, the expert on all things La Liga, this is just a rumour, with the journalist writing in his Mirror column:
“There has been no contact over a move and Rafa Benitez has far too much respect for the player.”
Just because Balague has condemned Raul moving to Liverpool doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Things happen in football all the time: take Cristiano Ronaldo at United last year. The will-he, won’t-we move to Real Madrid saga went on for two years before he joined the Spanish giants last summer. The fact of the matter is that Raul is out of favour at Madrid this season, is barely playing and at 32, he still has a few years left at the highest level and wants regular first team football.
It is hard to believe that Raul is only 32, considering how long he has been playing. The striker made his debut for Madrid in 1994, becoming their youngest ever player at 17 years and 4 months. Since then, Raul has shattered every record going for Madrid and Spain – he is Real Madrid’s all time top scorer, is the top scorer in Champions League history with 66 goals, is the leading scorer for Spain with 44 goals, is second in all-time La Liga appearances behind Andoni Zubizarreta and has won six La Liga titles, three Champions League medals and four Spanish cups in his time at the Bernabau.
But this season, Raul has fallen down the pecking order at Real Madrid, with the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain all competing for places. Raul has only started 11 games for Real this season (he has made 24 substitute appearances), scoring 6 goals in all competitions. He and Iker Casillas signed “contracts for life” with Real in 2008, which means their contracts will be renewed annually if they play over 30 games a season. Raul has nearly reached that milestone this campaign, but with Madrid likely to spend big in the summer again after losing to Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League, Raul could be be made expendable if Madrid sign another striker, which it looks like they will.
I can appreciate that Madrid will want to keep Raul at the club for the rest of his career, as a testament to all that he has done for the club, much like the fact that Giggs, Scholes and Gary Neville will never be sold by Man United because of all that they have done for the club. Raul is basically untouchable at Real Madrid, he can say what he wants, do what he wants and has the ear of president Fiorentino Perez and the Madrid media, like Spanish sports bible Marca. If Raul is willing to sacrifice some of that power he has at Real for playing time, then he could be a real bargain for Liverpool.
If I was Rafael Benitez, I would definitely snap Raul up in the summer. There are concerns that the Madrid captain is past it, washed up and has nothing left to give. But Raul would be available on a free transfer, so they have nothing really to lose. Raul could link up with Fernando Torres in the Liverpool attack and it would make a fearsome attacking trio of Torres, Gerrard and Raul for Liverpool.
If Raul joined Liverpool, he would be a worthy player to wear the famous number 7 shirt for Liverpool, as he possesses a pedigree worthy of Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan. Raul’s experience would also be invaluable to Liverpool, he has played at the very top level for the last 16 years and he could mentor the younger players like Dani Pacheco, which would be invaluable to the youngster’s development. Even if Benitez didn’t want to start Raul, he could bring him off the bench to make the difference in a game and produce that bit of magic that he still possesses, or just start him in the big Premiership or European games. Either way, Liverpool have nothing to lose.
With Hicks and Gillett constantly arguing and crippled with huge debts and the Rhone Group investment deal falling through, Liverpool may not be able to afford a younger alternative like David Silva or Juan Mata, with each costing upwards of £20 million. Raul therefore would be a much cheaper alternative and could do a job for Liverpool. His experience and winning mentality would be a valuable asset to the club and even if he fails to deliver at Anfield like former strike partner Fernando Morientes, Liverpool will lose nothing as he would be a free transfer. Raul could even attract the big name players to choose Liverpool over their Premiership rivals, as he commands respect in the world of football for all that he has achieved in his illustrious career.
Either way, it’s a win-win situation for Liverpool. Rafa needs to make Raul aware of Liverpool’s interest in him and with financial matters likely to dictate the club’s transfer policy this summer, Raul would be a cheap alternative that could bolster Liverpool’s attacking options and do a great job for the club for a couple of years.
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