"To win titles, you need a team"
Lifelong Real player Raúl is happy with the changes at the Madrid side.22 January 2008
MADRID - "With Schuster, we're enjoying ourselves," says Real Madrid captain Raúl González. The side's confidence was evident at Sunday's derby against Atletico Madrid: Raúl scored within 40 seconds, and his team never looked back, finishing the game with a comfortable 2-0 win. Barcelona's 1-0 win over Racing sees the Catalan team still behind Real in La Liga, who top the table with 50 points to Barcelona's 43.
This season has seen the 30-year-old return to form, and he's clearly relaxed and happy. The side may have been knocked out of the King's Cup, but its lead in the league is a huge boost, and the team is still very much in the running for a Champions League title. But equally important for Raúl, who joined Madrid aged 17, is what he sees as the side's return to the essential values of soccer.
"I'm very happy about the atmosphere in the dressing room. At the end of last season we returned to some of the values that we had lost, and the fans picked up on that. Also, the club is more stable now, which is very important. On a human level, we have a good set of players: it is a pleasure to turn up for work," he says.
There's a clear sense that he is glad that the hype of the "Galácticos" period of six seasons ago is over, and that Madrid can get down to the serious business of just playing football. "We've had some great players, but in past seasons we've lost the team spirit, and there was too much emphasis on individuals, and eventually we stopped winning trophies as a result."
And while the stars came and went, Raúl - the classic one-club player - has remained faithful to Madrid, perhaps missing out on opportunities to make more money. But he has no regrets. "I love this profession: just playing football everyday, training and the games. I have been lucky enough to do some advertising, but always as a something extra."
What's more, he points out that the big sides will always need players like him, who want to be irrevocably associated with a single team. "I take my hat off to somebody like Manchester United's Paul Scholes. He is one of the best: he has everything a side needs, and at Madrid, we are lucky to have players such as Iker Casillas and Guti, who have grown up here."
He believes that the current lineup is the most professional of the last 14 years, particularly praising Fabio Cannavaro and Ruud van Nistelroy: "They work hard, and know that we all depend on each other."
Raúl has connected with the Dutchman professionally and personally in a way that never happened with Ronaldo. "Ruud is a player with a great capacity to create goals, he brings a lot to the team. In the case of Ronaldo, we got off to a good start, but he is a much more individualistic player. He is one of the best strikers in the world - you can pass the ball to him and leave him to it. Thanks to him we won a lot of games, but in the long run, to win titles, you need a team."
But he says that Real Madrid has "lacked vision" in failing to nurture home-grown talent, in the way that, say, Barcelona has managed to. "We have found it difficult to bring players up, and we will need to really look at this. I think that over the last couple of years we have missed a lot of great opportunities: players such as Juanfran, Jurado, Soldado, De la Red, Granero... We've had the players, but lacked the stability to incorporate them into the side properly. If we win a title this year, then things will be calmer, and we won't be looking to sign new players and introduce changes."
[Copyright EL PAÍS / JOSÉ SÁMANO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news