“Real Madrid are favorites but Schalke could possibly win,” Raul, 37, told Goal from the training ground at the New York Cosmos facility at Hofstra. “Schalke was a beautiful experience for me. I’d like Schalke to win in Gelsenkirchen, and Madrid to win in Madrid, and for the better team to go through.”
The former Spain striker, who now plays for the New York Cosmos, was expected to see out his career in Madrid before joining Schalke in 2010. He went on to play for Al-Sadd in Qatar and was coaxed out of retirement in 2014 to sign up for the Cosmos project after their 2013 rebirth in the NASL.
“I spent most of my career at Real Madrid, but I had two very special years at Schalke and I have a lot of affection for the club,” Raul said.
Raul has been tipped to return to Real in a non-playing capacity and admitted that the lure of the Bernabeu interests him – just not at the moment.
“Real Madrid is my home and if I have the opportunity to go back and do something important, or something that really appeals to me, I’ll do it,” he added. “I went back a year ago with Al-Sadd and, after three or four years away, to still feel loved by the people in Madrid was very emotional for me.
“But now I’m focused on a very exciting project here with the Cosmos. I think there’s a long road of discovery ahead in the United States. Soccer is getting stronger in this country, little by little. I could possibly stay here for four or five years. Who knows what could happen at Real Madrid in that time? Who knows how things might change?”
In the first months of 2015, Real Madrid endured a difficult spell. Having won 22 matches in a row at the back end of 2014, the European champion lost three and drew one of its first 10 games of the year.
The biggest humiliation came at the hands of city rival Atletico Madrid, which triumphed 4-0 at Vicente Calderon on Feb. 7.
“Atletico were the better team, but in La Liga it was just three points,” Raul explained. “Real Madrid can still win the league, but every loss to Atletico hurts.
“There’s only one way to get out of a bad run and that is to concentrate and work hard. Whether you win, five, 10 or 20 matches in a row, you can’t relax. It’s the same with a loss – you can’t let it bring you down. Seasons are 10 months long and what matters is to get to the last two to three months in your best form.
“Every season has its bad patches. Barcelona had one, but now you see them playing very well. Earlier in the season people were saying they were a disaster, but they weren’t really so much of a disaster.
“It’s a process and I’m sure Real Madrid will compete and be in the fight in the end.”