Sunday, July 6, 2008

Should Raul return?


The Raulistas have suddenly gone cold. What was the reason ?
It was the aftermath of the EURO 2008 Finals. Yes, Spain had managed to snatch its first major tournament victory in 44 years. And that to without Raul leading the team. Since the 1968 Euro tourney, Spain had not major achievements in its kitty. But the meek and shy nutter Luis Aragones had turned the tide for the Spaniards. Though I am a Azzuri fan, I did greatly respect the way the Spanish won the title.

Under the leadership of Iker Casillas did Spain snatch the 1-0 victory over the Germans. Aragones had a great broil with Spain skipper Raul during their 2006 World Cup campaign. To avoid the conflict Aragones had with the Spanish politics he decided to keep the Real Madrid star our of his 23-man Euro squad. And it did work miracles for them

But now that the Wise Man From Hortaleza is no more the coach of the Spanish national team, the old question of whether to recall Raul to the national team shall resurfaced. Of course at the moment no one is giving the idea much thought but come the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and the Raulistas shall be back on the street, drumming their support or Raul’s inclusion.

The Del Bosque Factor

Vicente del Bosque was hideously booted out of the Real Madrid camp just a day after he led Real to La Liga glory in the 2002-2003 season but he was held in high esteem by the players, especially the Spanish contingent at the time, Fernando Hierro, Raul et al. Del Bosque’s CV doesn’t show much in terms of coaching and management (except for his days at the Bernabeu) but he is supposed to follow the coaching and management style he adopted while at Real Madrid.

Vicente del Bosque is a quietly spoken humble man who likes to get on with his players. He never willingly barges into any confrontation either with the players or with the media, something that his predecessor Luis Aragones couldn’t help not doing. Del Bosque is a coach who likes to keep his senior players happy and often, as he did at Real Madrid when he was surrounded by the Galacticos of Raul, Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo, he likes to let them run the show.

Now that he shall be taking over the reigns of the Spanish national team, he is anticipated to do so pretty much the same thing. Given his good relationship with Raul and his faith in him back in his Real Madrid days, one can assume at he could like to draft back the 31-year old into the set-up.

The Case Against Raul

But do Spain need Raul? If their performance at Euro 2008 is anything to go by, then Spain do not. This is a very talented Spain side that plays football with aestheticism and romanticism and with pace and tiki-taka, a hugely creative side that can afford to keep Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso on the bench and still win matches convincingly.

And Raul isn’t being missed at all. David Villa and Fernado Torres have exhibited that they are Spain’s future and although Iker Casillas was wearing the captain’s armband, the responsibilities and leadership have been spread across the entire squad and is not concentrated in one single person.

Technically Raul wouldn’t quite fit into the slick Spain team and although he can still be used as a utility player, playing the King of Spain off the bench would be like asking the Queen of Britain to travel in a second-class coach.

The recall of Raul in this case would somewhat resemble the return of David Beckham to the England set-up. At the time of the recall of Becksie, there was no choice but to embrace him again since the dearth of quality in the England national team was (and is) quite apparent. But for Raul, that luxury has been subtracted as Spain do have numerous capable players to carry on the baton.

But then again, this is Spain, a nation that had fostered generations of legends, myths and curses only to sweep them off in a single stroke. In Spain, and especially at RFEF, anything can happen. Absolutely anything.

The Political Factor

The presence of his Fernando Hierro in the Spanish football federation hierarchy would only accelerate Raul’s inclusion. Spain as a nation is rife with politics and its football hasn’t escaped the clutches of the political force at all. Hierro is RFEF’s sporting director and during his time as Spain coach Luis Aragones often used to hint at how he and a few others wanted to get rid of him.

And Hierro is Raul’s bosom friend. And Hierro is also the person who was booted out of Real Madrid along with Vicente del Bosque for apparently holding too much of sway on the dressing room that the then Real Madrid president Florentino Perez didn’t like. No this is not to script a conspiracy story but to provide the pieces of a politically inclined jigsaw.

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