Raúl: "It was always my dream to hang up my boots at Madrid"

AS caught up with the new LaLiga country manager for the US in NYC. Here's part II of the III part series where Raúl talks at length about his time at Madrid.

Raúl: "It was always my dream to hang up my boots at Madrid"

Would you ever consider being Real Madrid president one day?

At the moment it's not on the radar. I want to get to grips with my new position and still be close to what happens on the pitch and the business side of the game. I need at a least a year in this role to see how I find things.

What's your view on the regulations Florentino has put in place as regarding candidates who want to stand for election as club president?

I'm not familiar with the finer details but I can see that there are areas of division within the club.

You mention division?

Yes, that's certainly the perception from the outside.

With the current statutes, someone like Santiago Bernabeu wouldn't able to aspire to be president. Has Florentino made Real Madrid a club solely for the elite?

That's why the role of the 'socio' (club member) exists, they are the ones that can raise their voices and put forward their particular view-points. Next year there will be presidential elections and an opportunity for others to debate issues. 

Florentino Perez

Has Florentino Perez offered you the possibility of coming back to the club?

He's said I can return whenever I wanted.

When was the last time he said this?

It was the last time we met up. He tells me that the Bernabeu is my home. 

But has he formally offered you a position?

There have been the moment I'm the one making decisions but I inform people at the club before making these decisions public. 

What conditions need to be met by Real Madrid in order for you to come back to the Spanish capital?

We'll firstly it needs to be a mutual family decision. I'm humbled that I've been told the door is always open for me at the club but being honest I'm not sure this is a situation that is going to materialize in the next year or two. Later on down the line ...who knows...

The Real Madrid fans are still very aware that you didn't get the send-off you deserved. Do you feel the same way? 

I have a positive memory of the period but maybe the timing wasn't just right for all concerned when the opportunity came knocking. 

Hang on Raúl, that doesn't sound right "the timing wasn't right" for one of the illustrious players and club captain...

I had the chance to wear the shirt later in front of the Bernabeu crowd and I felt the warmth of the fans.

Did Real Madrid make leaving easy for you?

It was a decision that I felt was right at the time, for me and the family as I felt somewhat constricted at the time. 

Constricted? You proved at Schalke that you had still plenty to offer as a player.

Raul at Schalke 04

It was time to move on all concerned. I had a year left on my contract at the time and Madrid were great after being there for 17 years.

For all concerned?

That's the way I felt. I can only speak about the sensations I had at the time. 

It appears that legends don't get the same respect in Spain in the way the do say in Serie A.

There appears to be more respect in Italy for players such as Buffon, Totti, Del Piero, Maldini and Pirlo. Football is so much about the present day to day and there seems to be too little time to look to the past. 

Would you have liked to retire at Real Madrid?

That was my dream but I have no regrets. What happened to me when I left was wonderful and I wouldn't change it for the world. It was a tricky decision to leave Madrid but I had nothing but great experiences after leaving the Bernabeu.

How did you react to Casillas leaving the club, saying goodbye on his own?   

That memory was .... complicated.

Casillas bidding farewell to Real Madrid

Did it hurt watching the images?

The only ones who know the truth about that episode are Iker and the club, the rest of us were just on-lookers. Fortunately there was a follow up event which in my opinion  should have been the first one.

You mentioned earlier about "division" within the club. How did you see Mourinho's time at Madrid?

He did a great job with two great years, he created a strong competitive team and they managed to beat the Barça side of the time. In the third year it was palpable that all was not well with division and tension. But in order to analyse objectively one needs to understand the root of the problem. When I was at the club there were too many people not in touch with reality.

Did you like the "us against the rest of the world" mentality that Mourinho employed?

There are many ways of embarking on a project and to draw the squad together. I respect them all but for me on a sporting level he created a great team who were able to compete with the Barcelona side of the time.  

In the first part of our interview you talked about the importance of a Sporting Director figure at a football club. Did the De Gea case damage the public image of Real Madrid?

There have been a few too many of these episodes: De Gea, Cheryshev and am sure they cause certain consternation among those outside the club.

How must Keylor Navas have felt with all this happening?

I met him recently and congratulated him on an excellent season. He was quick to amend his mindset and demonstrated his passion to work hard and showed that on occasion although you are forced to suffer it can make you stronger.  

Cristiano Ronaldo

Is there life at Madrid after Cristiano?

Of course...What he has done at the club is exceptional and he has been top scorer at the club for the last seven or eight seasons. No-one anticipated that and his hunger to train and improve himself is admirable.

Do you get on well together?

Yes, I have a good relationship with him and we have mutual respect for each other. It was a shame that we only got to spend one season playing together at Madrid but in that time we hit it off.

Were you disappointed with James Rodriguez last season at Madrid?

It wasn't an easy season for him but it will serve him well going forward. He is hugely talented and will be a key player for the club. At Madrid you can't sit back and live on the previous season's success. I hope he continues as I fee he still has plenty to offer as a player. 

Part III of the exclusive Raúl interview will be published tomorrow as the No.7 reflects on the Spanish national team and the future of the game in the US.