As Real Madrid go through their preseason, and with the transfer window still open, there is a heated and often controversial debate among followers and fans alike as to which players, notably strikers (in the context of this article), should be offloaded.
Many want Ruud Van Nistelrooy to go, while others believe Raúl’s time is up at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and he should either leave with dignity or hang up his boots for the sake of club.
Firstly, it would be pertinent to look at their past.
Raúl, a living legend and a great leader, is Real’s all-time top scorer and historically one of the best-ever forwards. Fernando Hierro once paid a compliment to Raul that he is “a Ferrari who is going to overtake us all and break every record in Spanish football."
Madrid-born Raúl began with Real Madrid’s city rival Atlético Madrid but when in 1992 they decided to close their youth academy because of financial problems he moved to Real Madrid C. That proved to be arguably the biggest mistake in the history of Atlético Madrid.
He was the youngest ever to play for Real Madrid when Jorge Valdano picked him for the senior team. A true sportsman noted for his integrity and honesty that has never been red-carded. Having started as a midfielder he has become a top striker with great left foot, predatory goal-scoring instincts, vision and an unending hunger for success.
He is an all-time goal scorer for Real Madrid in La Liga and also all-time leading scorer in UEFA Champions League. Raul has career club average of 0.45 goals/game and Champions League average of 0.51 goals/game.
Coming to Van Nistelrooy, he arrived at Real Madrid in 2006 after five stellar seasons with Manchester United. In his first year with the Spanish capital club he won the Pichichi trophy and a La Liga title.
In November 2008, he was declared to be unavailable for the remainder of the 2008-09 season because of a right-knee injury. Before getting injuries he had scored 10 goals in 12 games for the club that season at a phenomenal average of 0.83 goals/game.
Ruud has career club average of 0.63 goals/game and Champions League average of 0.75 goals/game. He is the second highest goalscorer in Champions League history.
Ruud is a much feared and more complete striker, with lethal finishing touch, ball control, strength and resolve. If he picks up his prolific game where he left off after injury last season than he can still be a better goalscorer than Raul as validated by his comparatively better goals/game average in all club competitions.
Realistically it is now almost impossible for Ruud to compete with Raúl for a place in the starting lineup. If for some reason Ruud is not sold then he may be used as a substitute for Raúl because of his experience.
While Raúl is in the twilight of his career and is not the force he used to be, he is still an untouchable figure at Real because of his past record and loyal service.
At the end of the day, no matter what the critics might say about Raúl, he has earned and deserves an honorable exit.
As next season begins, which should be his last with the club, the coach should use him sparingly and mostly only as an inspirational role to motivate the players in the locker room.
Anything more than that and he will become a tactical impediment stifling team’s offensive play.