The End of an Era
Raul Gonzalez bid farewell to Real Madrid on Monday in an event held at the Presidential Balcony of Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and attended by club President, Florentino Perez, Director General, Jorge Valdano, head coach, Jose Mourinho and several members of the Board.
Good afternoon and welcome to the Santiago Bernabeu. Dear friends, as you well know, this legendary stadium has witnessed one of the unforgettable chapters in the history of our club. This pitch is full of emotions and passionate deeds. And today in this stadium we will experience another emotional event.
Many men make up part of the legend of Real Madrid, and many have left their mark on the history of this club, where as we all know the demand for perfection, titles and victories is immense. Many have managed to conquer the glory, the memory, the respect and the affection of our unmatched fans here. But within this group of extraordinary men, there are very few who are chosen to be the symbol of what Madridismo is and should be.
Raul possesses an unquestionable gift and the talent to respond to the sacred code of the most important values of this club. With his infinite commitment, ceaseless work and love for Real Madrid, Raul has earned the indestructible devotion of a fan base, so that no matter where he goes, he will always be considered one of them.
I personally met Raul ten years ago when I became the President of Real Madrid in 2000, and since then I can confirm that the demand he places on himself, his undying effort and his yearning to triumph exceed all logic.
Today I must say that one of my dreams as the president of Real Madrid is that the players who form part of this club fit in with the spirit and the legacy that Raul Gonzalez Blanco, our captain, leaves us. Both on and off the pitch, Raul perfectly responds to the values that permeate Madridismo.
As president, I would also like to point out the pride I always felt by the formidable respect and admiration shown to him by all our adversaries on the pitch. It is just another example of how one of the best of our best honorably served our club.
Raul’s resume and his conquests are perhaps what are most relevant to many. It is not easy to have six leagues, three European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, one European Super Cup, four Spanish Super Cups, three gold medals: from the Spanish Football Federation, from the Community of Madrid and the Royal Order for Sports Merit. UEFA’s Best Forward in Europe in 2001 and 2002, the two-time top scorer in the Champions in 1999/00 and 2000/01, the top scorer in La Liga in 1998/99 and 2000/01, the official top scorer of Real Madrid, Madrid’s top scorer in La Liga, Madrid’s top scorer in Europe, the most official matches played for Madrid, the most league matches played for Madrid and the all-time top scorer of the Spanish national team with 44 goals.
But despite this incredible resume, which is more suitable for a club than a person, lest you forget, and I direct this to Raul, that you must always include one more, and that is the conquest of the recognition and the applause of millions of supporters of this sport that consider themselves Raulistas no matter where they are in the world.
Raul is the captain of Real Madrid, but Raul is also the owner of his destiny. He has decided to end his stage as a player here, but we all know that this is not a goodbye, but rather a see you later. I would like to remind you that this also happened with our President of Honor, Alfredo di Stefano, an institution of this club. Dear Raul, wherever you may go and wherever you may play, the Real Madrid shirt is and always will be your shirt, the crest is and always will be your crest, the fans will and always will be your fans and this Santiago Bernabeu stadium is and always will be your home.
Captain, thank you, thank you very much for all these passionate years you have given to your Real Madrid. We will not forget you because, among other reasons, we do not want to forget you.
Before I begin I would like to thank everyone in attendance, and thank you to the president for his kind words. I love football more than anything, and to play for Real Madrid is the best dream I can think of. I feel like a footballer, and I want to continue doing so as long as time and my body permit.
Throughout the years I have always tried to stay true to the values of Real Madrid. Today more than ever before I want everyone to know that I tried to give my very best in every play, every dribble, every shot and every gesture on the pitch. That is what Real Madrid is to me, and that is why the word surrender never existed in my head.
Today is a very emotional day. Today is a day of powerful feelings. Today is a day that cannot do without my gratitude and thanks. It is impossible to name each and every person who over this time have stood by me and helped me. They know I will never forget them because they never let me down and they always stood by me even in the worst of times. Thank you to all the presidents and directors because they always made me feel at home over the last 16 years. Thank you to all the teammates who I shared a dressing room with. Their sacrifice and commitment helped me be a better player. Thank you to all club employees, because they are essential and they make our work easier. Thank you to all the coaches and coaching staff who I shared day-to-day duties with and who I shared victories and defeats with. Thank you to our opponents, because I always felt your respect. It was an honor to play against you. Thank you to the media as well, because whether it was by praise or criticism, you also helped me make it to this point. And thank you to my people. You know who you are because you are always by my side. Thanks Jorge for giving me that first opportunity. For many it was a crazy move by a football poet, and thank you to Florentino Perez, because I know you always search for what is best for this club. I am convinced that this will be a great season and I hope that Real Madrid win many titles this year. Thank you, of course, to the millions of Real Madrid supporters who always want us to win and who suffer with every defeat. I will never forget that their strength was also my strength and fortitude, and also to the Santiago Bernabeu, where I always felt loved and respected. Thank you everyone for everything and for so much. And finally, thank you from the bottom of my heart to my family, because thanks to them, nothing, not even football, would make any sense.
I cannot end this speech without sending my love, support and deep admiration to our maestro, Alfredo di Stefano. I hope that one day soon he is able to again sit in this balcony, from where I am sure that during every match he will want to move the ball with his eyes and thoughts.
Football is and has been my life. Real Madrid has been my home and here I have experienced unique emotions. Today is the first day of my new life, during which I will try something so complex and difficult as it is to be as immensely happy as I have been at Real Madrid. Many years have gone by since I suited up in white for the first time. With that time now passed and on the day of my farewell, I reassert more than ever my commitment to this club and my loyalty to its values. I will always be available for whatever it needs. Thank you from the bottom of my footballer heart. Hala Madrid!