On June 27, 1977, a legend was born, an angel in human form hailing from San Cristóbal de los Ángeles, Madrid: Raúl González, el 7 de España, el eterno capitán, el mito madridista.
I don’t think I can avoid tearing up as I write this (who am I kidding, the tears are already flowing). You gave us – all of madridismo – 16 years of pure passion, heart, and joy. 741 games, 323 goals, six La Liga titles, three European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, one European Super Cup, and four Supercopas de España. Your instinct and hunger are second to none, and you will never be replaced as a symbol for everything we love about the beautiful game.
Franz Beckenbauer once described you as “the best of Europe,” the “spirit” of our beloved club. Thierry Henry said that when you play there’s only one goal on your mind and “it’s the football essence.” Your every move makes us stand up in our seats; it’s as if you’re on a wavelength that we can only truly tap into while watching you grace a fútbol field. Zinedine Zidane said that you and Luís Figo are his two favorite players in Europe, and Figo himself said that you are “the greatest player to have ever played the game.”
We all agree, you’re simply the best there’s ever been. And for that, we’re eternally grateful. In a modest attempt to pay tribute to your immense greatness, here’s a list of spectacular moments in your Madrid career, one for every year that you defended the escudo del mejor equipo del mundo.
October 29, 1994
Your debut against Zaragoza at La Romareda. You were only 17 years old, but it didn’t matter; a legend was born.
November 5, 1994
You scored your first goal – a perfectly-placed one-touch zurdazo into the upper 90 – in your debut at the Bernabéu a week later vs. our cross-city rivals, Atlético de Madrid.
October 18, 1995
At age 18, you became the youngest player to ever score a hat trick in the UEFA Champions League. You did so in your third-ever UCL match against Ferencvaros. Damn. That beautiful floating header at the far post in the 24th…I could watch that all day.
January 18, 1997
There’s literally no way that I can do this goal justice with words. An absolutely insane and impossible angle, phenomenal foot skills in the buildup, at the Calderón of all places against Atleti. You put us ahead 2-1 and didn’t look back. Two goals and two assists. Wow.
May 20, 1998
You and the rest of the boys brought us our first European Cup in 32 years. 32! You featured in the squad that defeated Juventus 1-0, crack, and you were just getting started.
December 1, 1998
With seven minutes remaining in the European/South American Cup vs. CR Vasco da Gama, you latched onto a beautiful diagonal pass from Clarence Seedorf, cut inside twice and slotted home an outrageous game winner. El gol de aguanís.
October 13, 1999:
Remember that day you silenced the Camp Nou? Yeah, no words.
November 24, 1999
Up against Dynamo Kyiv on a snow-covered pitch in Ukraine, you tucked this shot from distance into the upper 90. For you, it was almost normal. Almost.
April 19, 2000
After drawing 0-0 with treble-winning Manchester United in the home leg of the UCL quarterfinals, you scored a brace away at Old Trafford. WTF? Unbelievable. The first was a fantastic finish, and the second was a right place, right time post-Fernando Redondo taconazo strike.
May 24, 2000
It’s getting progressively more difficult to describe your brilliance, mito. Madrid met Valencia in the 2000 UCL final, and you sprinted the entire length of the opposition’s half before calmly rounding Santiago Cañizares with a deft cut to your right and scoring. Not only this, you were the competition’s top scorer with 10.
May 15, 2002
You became the first man to ever score in two UCL finals after this goal nine minutes into the match against Bayer Leverkusen. An incredible one-touch at a difficult angle, I’m not quite sure how this one found the back of the net.
March 12, 2003
You had three AC Milan defenders surrounding you at the top of the box. THREE. ?
February 15, 2009
The day you broke Alfredo Di Stéfano’s illustrious scoring record. Your brace in Madrid’s 4-0 win over Sporting Gijón brought your total tally to 309.
April 24, 2010
Your last goal with the club. You gave everything. ?
August 23, 2013
El homenaje. We love you, eterno capitán.