Raul calls time on 21-year career

NEW YORK • Former Real Madrid forward Raul Gonzalez, the Spanish giants' joint-record scorer, will hang up his boots next month after a stellar 21-year career as one of the game's finest talents.

The 38-year-old, who now plays for New York Cosmos, won many honours while at the Bernabeu, including three Champions League crowns and six Primera Liga titles.

He will retire at the end of the North American Soccer League season, having made his debut in April for the Cosmos, who play one tier below Major League Soccer.

"When I signed for the New York Cosmos in December, I said I would evaluate how I felt towards the end of the year," he said in a statement.

"My decision is to retire... I am fully focused on finishing the season strong and helping the New York Cosmos win the NASL Championship.

"In the coming months, I will decide the next step in my career."

Raul, who shares Real's scoring record with Cristiano Ronaldo, having netted 323 times in 741 games, also serves as a technical adviser for the Cosmos youth academy.

He is expected to take over full-time after he retires.

"Playing soccer has been part of my life for so long. The decision to retire is not an easy one but I believe it is the right time," said Raul, who made his Spain debut in 1996.

He scored 44 goals in 102 internationals over 10 years.

"I'm thankful to everyone who has supported me throughout my career and I look forward to playing my final games with the New York Cosmos over the coming weeks," he said.

After a spell in Atletico Madrid's academy, he joined local rivals Real in the 1992-93 season. He made his debut for Los Blancos in 1994 in a league game at Real Zaragoza.

He left Real in 2010 and joined Schalke 04, helping the Bundesliga side reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2011.

He moved to Al-Sadd Sports Club of Qatar in 2012, before joining the Cosmos, who won the NASL's spring season title.

They have lost only one home game in 18 months to sit third in the table with a place in the four-team Championship assured.

Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said: "Raul is one of the world's most iconic players. I knew when we signed him what he would bring on pitch but his knowledge, passion, professionalism and commitment (have) exceeded my expectations."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Raul calls time on 21-year career'. Print Edition | Subscribe