Hopefully you will remember our bhoy in Venice , Beppe , who gave us a great tale of his first trip to see the famous Glasgow Celtic .
Those who know him well , of which I am fortunate to , are left in no doubt as to whom his favourite player is .
While chatting last week he confessed a wish to help us again but was lost for topics . Like myself he cant add much to the memorable games series , but I believe he does a fine job , in his own style and words, of letting all of you also know who he regards as ” his hero ” !
Many thanks my friend
Courage, strength, honesty, super powers, some of the quality we look for when choosing our heroes. Our fathers, some bloke from Marvel or a sport legend. We grow up knowing we have someone to rely on, someone who will never fail us, someone to be proud of, to emulate, to cheer, to be represented by, a safe place to go when things are not great or even better when they are. Someone to keep us dreaming and, therefore, young.
My hero was (and will always) be Raul.
Not because his first goal against Atletico, or his famous goal in the final of the Champions league 2000, or for his famous finger to his lips to silence the Barca fan when he scored in the Camp Nou or for the treble against Man-U that lead Ferguson to label him as the best player in the world.
I loved him because as a young player, maybe less talented than others, fought every day to be the best and when he did reach that goal, he set new ones, going to became our Captain, a legend, he became “el siete”, “the angel of Madrid”, “el capitan”…he was Real Madrid.
Raul played alongside the Galacticos and never complained or came out in public with any issue though he had plenty of reasons to protest. He simply kept working hard, he kept leading and taking upon him all responsibilities. Players came and went, he adapted his game to allow the President to satisfy his childish itches or simply to help the team. And he kept helping Madrid winning games but most important, as the Face of Madrid, he gave the world a nice image of the Team.
Many people underestimate his actual abilities, which helped him to win 15 trophies, three Champions League, six La Liga titles. To me Raúl still is one of the top 5 strikers ever and I could back it up with stats.
But I know people usually prefer players who maybe are “louder”, in and out of the field.
I could quote a recent Report of The Spanish football research centre (CIHEFE), that, taking in consideration goals, assists, tackles, and so on, certified Raul as the best ever Spanish player.
But to me all these stats are pointless for 2 reasons: one, everyone has different taste, ideas and will look at players differently and, two, Raul could have scored half of the goals and still would have been my hero.
Because as a fan and a young man it was special to look at him as a role model, as the man representing our values. He fought like no other for our Team, he became one thing with the Team and the fan. He became Raul Madrid. And he was great to have him as the voice of Madrid.
Only a real madridista can understand why Ronaldo, the old or the new one, was never and could never be as loved as Raul, nor Beckham, Bale, Figo or anyone else but few true captains and legends like Hierro or Sanchis.
Because when Raul talked, I was proud of him, of being a Madrid fan and as long as he was there, Madrid never really lost. Sometimes we didn’t really win.
But most important, as long as he was the captain, time stood still. I could not get old, impossible.
He was a shield for everyone at Madrid, players and presidents and for the fan, a wall you could hide behind till it was safe to go out.
He had all I thought one should have: strength, passion, determination, love, skills, arrogance, talent and he brought joy to us all.
He carried the Team on his back regardless of the moment and from his very first match he played like he owned the field. Fearless and influential, famously told the manager, before his very first match, few days short of his 18 birthday: “If you want to win, play me. If not, put someone else in.” And yet he was humble, honest and quiet.
A player like him is rare and might never come again for us, for sure we miss him.
The day he retired (which for me is the day he left Real, though I know he went on and proved how good he was by taking Shalke to the semi-final of the Champions League with his goals and leadership), I woke up: I wasn’t that young kid who fell in love with Madrid anymore. The wall broke down. My youth was gone. No more heroes.
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