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  Euro Stars  »  Raúl González


Time is right for Raul to deliver for Spain
Raúl González
Real Madrid
How Spain perform at Euro 2004 is as unpredictable as ever, but one certainty is that the first name on the team sheet will be that of Real Madrid striker Raul.

Almost a decade after bursting on to the scene as a 17-year-old, Raul has developed into one of the few Spanish players with a reputation outside the Iberian peninsula.

He has played a major part in winning four league titles, three European Cups and two World Club Cups, and is captain of both his club and country.

He was handed his international debut in 1996 and has gone on to become the most prolific goal scorer to play for the national side with 38 goals in 70 games.

Despite his undoubted goal-scoring capacity Raul does not have the out-and-out finishing power of traditional strikers and on occasions he is capable of spurning the most straightforward of chances.

However, he does possess the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, scoring when it matters.

Whether with either foot, his head or even his hand, Raul somehow manages to get the ball in the net.

His selfless running and repertoire of neat defence-piercing passes often go unnoticed, but together with his finely-honed striker's instincts they help make him the most widely respected forward in the Spanish game.

Alex Ferguson hailed him as the best player in the world after he tormented the Manchester United defence and helped himself to two goals in Real's 3-1 win in the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the Bernabeu last season.

Although he has triumphed with Real, he has yet to shine on the international stage.

He managed just one goal as Spain limped out of the World Cup in 1998 and at Euro 2000 he was again far from his best, missing a last-minute penalty in the 2-1 quarter-final defeat against France.

He performed better at the last World Cup, notching up three goals in the group stages, before injury against Ireland ruled him out of the quarter-final defeat against South Korea.

Success at club level has taken its toll on Raul in the past, leaving him stale and exhausted at the end of the season. This year he has underperformed for Real, but that could end up being a blessing in disguise for Spain.
- Simon Baskett




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