Real Madrid is no stranger to success.
With 31 La Liga titles, nine UEFA Champions League titles, and a slew of other awards, Real is deservedly regarded as the most successful Spanish club. Many great players led to Real's success, with names such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, and Luis Figo casting their legendary shadows on the Bernabeu's pitch.
After 16 years of service, another great player officially ended his time at Real Madrid: Raúl.
No matter who you support, there is no doubting Raúl's brilliant offensive mindset, in addition to his outstanding ability to truly, passionately fight for his colors. The iconic striker leaves Madrid with 323 competitive goals.
Making his first appearance for Los Blancos in 1994 as the youngest player to debut for Real's first team, he went on to win league titles in 1995 and 1997. He finished the 1998-99 season as La Liga's top goal-scorer, with 25 goals. In 2001, Real won their third league title, and the following season they went on to win the Champions League title, in which Raul scored the opening goal in the 2-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
Raúl holds the record for goals scored in Champions League play, with 66 goals, and has netted a record 44 goals in 102 appearances for Spain. Just last season, he passed the great Alfredo Di Stefano as the club's leading scorer.
With awards and records aside, Raúl's low-profile life off of the pitch and down-to-business, humble, and hard-working play, which was never too flashy or convoluted on the pitch, made him a player in which all generations could look up to.
He's lasted through 17 different coaches at Real, and also a handful of different offensive partners. From Fernando Morientes, Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and soon enough, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raúl at times struggled to maintain consistency.
Nevertheless, his image as a leader and a legend at Real Madrid never died.
One day after midfielder Guti, who played for Real for 14 years, bid an emotional farewell to Madrid, Raúl did the same.
Some 500 fans gathered at the Bernabeu to say goodbye Monday. After those in attendance watched a tribute video, club president Florentino Perez esteemed Raúl as "the best of the best."
I don't think any of us could of said it better, Mr. Perez.
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