There’s another Spanish superstar in town and it isn’t David Villa. In the wake of NYCFC acquiring the former Atletico Madrid and Spain forward, the New York Cosmos signed his predecessor, Raul. The Real Madrid legend was Spain’s all-time top scorer before Villa broke his record in 2011, and until a few weeks ago he was the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Champions League.
His pedigree is without question, but at 37 years of age one has to wonder what this signing really means for the Cosmos. They’re not in the top tier of US soccer, so is this move just to sell tickets and merchandise? Quite the opposite, in fact. Even if that were the motivation behind Raul’s move to New York that wouldn’t mean it’s ill advised. United States soccer is growing and so is interest in the sport. Raul’s presence on the team is a boost for the organization and US soccer as a whole.
He doesn’t need to score bundles of goals or make headlines, but his role with the team will certainly be one of a mentor. Having him in the New York area allows players from the New York Red Bulls, NYCFC and those in youth academies to monitor and study the Real Madrid legend. In fact, Raúl and head coach Giovanni Savarese noted the importance of developing youth and cited Raúl’s passion for teaching as the main source of motivation behind his move.
His unveiling at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Cosmopolitan Suite was exactly what a mature star footballer dreams of in an unveiling, and the legend was very relaxed and at ease in the presence of former Cosmos stars. It was here that I asked him and NY Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese a few questions regarding Raúl and the Cosmos’ latest undertaking.
I asked him why he decided to return to professional soccer after retiring earlier in the year following his stint with Al Saad and what brought him to the Cosmos.
“When my time with Al Saad was coming to a close, I received an increasing number of calls from Gio. After much discussion, he convinced me that the Cosmos was a project I’d be a perfect fit for, as I would have the opportunity to aid in the development of my teammates and academy players.”
“Football is my passion, being able to share my experience with other players is something I’m very passionate about and I’m excited to be part of a league that is more tactical and structured than people think.”
I asked Savarese what excites him most about having Raúl on the team and what their aspirations are going forward.
“There are plenty of names that come up and call us looking to play, but we’re not looking for names. We look for the right fit, someone who wants to be here to improve our game and someone who brings that passion like Raúl does.”
Raúl also stated that although his contract is set for two years, he is not sure whether or not he’ll be playing more or mentoring more. It all depends on how he feels physically.
The event concluded with going away messages from former Schalke teammate Julian Draxler and former Real Madrid teammates Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos. Credit to the NY Cosmos for bringing in a legend such as Raúl with the noble intention of growing soccer in the United States.
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