Real Madrid and Spain legend Raul on the cusp of one final trophy with New York Cosmos

Former Spain international Raul could be just 90 minutes from lifting one last trophy on Sunday, capping a remarkable playing career in professional football with a win in the North American Soccer League's championship game.

Raul, pictured in May 2014 while playing for Al Sadd, is one match away from retirement. Karim Sahib / AFP
Powered by automated translation

Former Spain international Raul could be just 90 minutes from lifting one last trophy on Sunday, capping a remarkable playing career in professional football with a win in the North American Soccer League’s championship game.

Raul launched the New York Cosmos into the final — and postponed his retirement — with a goal in the previous game, a strike that ensured the final against the Ottawa Fury FC will be played in the Cosmos home stadium in Hempstead, New York.

The championship game also marks the retirement of Cosmos teammate and former Spain international Marcos Senna.

“As coach, you want these players in the final. They’ve been there before, they know what to do,” Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. “They are great people, great human beings. It’s going to be very hard for us to replace them.”

Raul, 38, joined Cosmos in October 2014 after a career helping Real Madrid win six Primera Liga titles and three Uefa Champions League titles. He also played for German club FC Schalke 04 and in Qatar for Al Sadd.

Raul, a product of Real Madrid’s youth academy, made his debut for Real Madrid’s senior team at the age of 17, eventually making 741 appearances and serving as captain from 2003 to 2010.

His professionalism over the last year was an example for younger players, said Cosmos defender Carlos Mendes. “You just try to watch them every day and learn what you can,” he said.

The NASL is the second tier of professional football in the United States, after Major League Soccer (MLS). It has drawn interest from recognised stars such as former Italian national team captain Paolo Maldini, who co-owns a Miami team set to play in the league in 2016, and Brazil’s Ronaldo, who owns a stake in the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale team.

Ottawa reached the final in the Canadian team’s second year in the league, ending the combined spring and fall seasons even on points with the Cosmos.

“There’s nothing wrong with Raul retiring and us winning the league,” Fury coach Marc Dos Santos said. “We want to make sure it is a big day for the Ottawa Fury.”

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @NatSportUAE