Golden legged Raul
Kicking a soccer ball with enough power, spin and accuracy to get it past a goalkeeper is a tough task. Doing it consistently at the highest level is nearly impossible.
Raul Gonzalez is one of the few who have mastered the skill.
The Real Madrid forward twice put the ball into the opposing net Sunday, not an uncommon feat for a man who is the Union of European Football Associations' all-time leading scorer.
But these latest two, Nos. 308 and 309 for his team, added yet another milestone to the 31-year-old Madrid captain's impressive resume. They broke his storied club's record for most goals in a career.
“The (309) goals are a historic, unique and incredible result,” Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero said of his rival. “(He is) a great champion who has shown incredible qualities over the years and will continue to do so for a long time.”
Raul, as Gonzalez is known, has played 504 competitive matches over 15 seasons for his 309 goals, the most recent double coming in Madrid's 4-0 win over Sporting Gijon in the Spanish league. He also is Spain's all-time leading international scorer with 44 goals.
The latest record broke the mark set by Alfredo di Stefano, who needed only 401 games in a Madrid shirt to score 307 career goals. Yes, it took Raul a lot longer to take over as the club's top forward. But he's playing in a completely different era.
When Di Stefano was wearing Madrid's classic white uniform, he was the undisputed star of the team, with teammates such as Ferenc Puskas taking a back seat to the Argentine-born forward. Raul hasn't always had that luxury, sharing time up front with players like Ronaldo and Robinho, and vying for goals with others such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo.
All of those “Galacticos” have come and gone from the Spanish capital, however, leaving the man with the No. 7 on his back to play game after game in longer and longer seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Always, he has delighted fans with one more goal.
Di Stefano, of course still leads with five European Cups to Raul's three, but there is still time.
“He's always in the first line of battle,” Madrid coach Juande Ramos said of Raul, who made his club debut when he was 17 and has never played for another team. “He's the one who lays himself on the line, the one who carries the weight of the team and you can only congratulate him.”
But while Raul is revered by Madrid and its supporters, he missed out on the country's incredible run at last year's European Championship in Austria and Switzerland. Despite pressure from the fans, then-Spain coach Luis Aragones omitted Raul from his squad for the tournament.
It's hard to criticize Aragones too much, seeing as he led Raul-less Spain to only its second major title, 44 years after it won Euro 1964 at home.
But when it comes to the Spanish league, which is really what matters most to Madrid's “ultra” fans, Raul has come through time and time again. He has scored 216 league goals and 11 in 18 games this season. Last year, he scored 18 league goals and helped Madrid wins its record 31st Spanish league title.
“As well as being a great champion on the field of play, and his goal tally is a more than evident confirmation, he is an example for all youngsters who want to become footballers,” AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini said.
At least to the ones who want to score scores of goals.