He confesses that second place isn't nearly good enough, that he'd love to be playing the Champions League final and that he will support the red-and-blues, “because their defeats don't comfort me.” He warns everybody that next year will see a different Real Madrid and that the happy days will soon be back. The Captain of the Whites spoke of the elections -“the members will decide”- and he ended up by recognising that he's very pleased with the progress he's made and that he'll be “in top form... the best I've ever been for a World Cup.”
The game's on Tuesday, after the entire matchday has been played already. Strange, right?
Yes, it is quite strange and quite complicated, as has already happened a few times this season. We have to accept it. We're anxious to play the match because much is at stake. I hope to win the game, because in the end it's what's important.
So much scheduling confusion. Finally, the players are the damaged party.
Yes, the situation is against the interests of the players. We have two resting days less. But this is better than playing one week after. The capped players would have no holidays. I hope season schedules are fairer and can accommodate this sort of circumstances in the future.
How do you feel physically?
I feel very well, great. Personally, I am very happy with the progress I've made. It's obvious that as a team member it's been a tough year for the Club, the players and the fans, but we have this second place objective, which is beneficial for all. We want to end the year winning in Seville.
You've evolved fantastically, Raúl, but you don't seem to be capable of scoring.
It's always very important to score goals for a forward. This is what's happening to me now, but I think it'll change because I've seen a lot of improvement. I've had my chances and I hope to score the next time around. It would further boost my self-confidence.
Before the World Cup would be good.
I'm not going to obsess over scoring on Tuesday. It'll happen when it has to. It's obvious to see that ever since I came back from injury, I've been really unlucky, but things will change.
Do you think that the players who are displaying best form should play with the national team or should it be those who've helped out during the qualifying stages?
The national coach is the person that knows best. He's had a whole season to see how the players are doing. He'll call up whomever he thinks is best for the team. There will always be players who don't make it to the final list even though they have done enough to feature.
Is it a mistake to call elections now and not be able to design the new squad?
It's not for me to judge. What's good is that the elections have been called and now it's the turn of the members to speak and endow the Club with some stability. The members always vote the most convenient candidate.
Does the squad need to get renewed after having touched bottom?
I don't know what's going to happen. What I want to do is win on Tuesday and end second. It's for other people to assess what you have asked me. I don't think it needs much renovation, although you always have to bring in new faces. I'm sure the Club will find the best solution.
What do you think of the future? You said you didn't mind sacrificing yourself. What do you think, do you feel stong…?
My career, present and future, will continue to be linked to Real Madrid. I want to serve my full contract, but what happens next nobody knows. I'm thinking of the team; we have to revert this situation. It's been three seasons without titles, but I'm sure that after this year, many things are going to change, for the better. We have to be positive. The future has to be built calmly, with order and discipline. Happy days are right around the corner.
This has been the most chaotic season since you arrived to Real Madrid?
It's been complicated; actually, the last three have been. But this season, on top, we've changed sporting directors and presidents twice. That's why this has been the worst and that's why it's good to have elections. Members should speak out so we can get started on a new project.
What do you think of Florentino Pérez's decision when he quit?
It was his to take and we need to respect it. It's obvious it was a tough decision. The team tried very hard but it was out of the fight for titles way too soon. That hurt everybody: the supporters, the players, etc. We kept on fighting nevertheless and we even managed to get some good results in Pamplona and Santander. Now the second place is in our hands alone, and yet it's not nearly enough.
Has the image of the team, with a split squad, hurt Real Madrid?
Now, after Tuesday, we will have time to think back on everything and analyse the situation. We don't know who the president might be, so these judgements should be saved until after the elections. It's obvious that things have to change. It's what all the Madridistas want.
What posture do you defend, continuism or someone who breaks with the past and has radically new ideas?
That's up to the members. At this time, us players have to be discreet, stay away from these matters that affect the Club. All we can do is wait and see. I'm sure things have a solution. We want things to turn out well and for the fans to enjoy and feel proud of our game. There's been good things and things that need correcting these years. I'm sure the future president will change things around.
What would you do?
I can't tell you that; that's a private matter. We'll just wait and see what happens in the elections. The members have the final say.
It would be good to support the future coach.
The most important thing in group dynamics is for the coach to have the full support and trust of the Club, and for the project to be long term. When you trust someone and you give them time and space, it's always for the better, but that's not that simple here because you live the day to day. We have to be patient and trust that the club will find the best solution.
Who do you want to win the Champions League?
I want Barcelona to win. First, I want to congratulate Sevilla. They've done something great and we have all enjoyed their feat. It would be a great to have two Spanish champions for Spanish football. If Barcelona doesn't make it, I will be glad for the Spanish players that play for Arsenal.
Other teammates prefer a defeat by Barcelona reasoning they are Madridistas
I respect all opinions, but Barcelona losing the Champions League does not comfort me; it doesn't make up for this season. I would have liked to be there, but Barcelona has been the rightful League champion and they're in the final deservedly so. As a football fan, I think we will enjoy a great final and the best team will win.
What do you think about the national team? How do you feel?
We think that we can go far, but that's only achieved step by step. We have enough quality to be there, next to the greats and especially one, Brazil. They're the great favourites and that makes all other teams be calmer. Then there's many sides that can do exceptionally well, including Spain. But we need to prove that in the pitch. We have the skill and the talent to do something big. I don't know if it's better to not be favourites... we'll have to wait and see.
You are the captain. You have your role, but Luis Aragonés has not yet said that you have to lead the way.
That's no sweat off my back because we should all lead the way, starting with the skipper. This is our frame of mind for the World Cup. Our team is made up of great people and great footballers.
Can you say for sure that you'll be in top form?
That's hard to say, but I am willing to say that I will go to this event in the best shape I've ever gone to one, including both the World Cup and the Eurocup.
|Report by Javier Palomino & Luis Navarro
Photos by Daniel Sastre
Translation by Luis Orueta