La Liga also hosted an event in Manhattan attended by members of the New York soccer community and former members of the two clubs playing. Of the latter, one of those in attendance was Raul, eterno capitán of Real Madrid and a member of the New York Cosmos in 2015.“I’m happy,” said the former striker with a big smile. “At some point, I had to stop playing soccer. La Liga gave me the opportunity for the post I hold now, Country Manager, allowing me an office here. For me, it was an opportunity, a challenge to learn more about the business side of soccer and the business of it here in the United States in a market with other sports that are more closely followed and the truth is the experience is very positive.”
“I’m learning much,” he added. “I’ve been in meetings in places I never could have imagined. These are things that will help me with the steps I take in the future.”
With the stakes so high for this match and his personal connections to Real Madrid, one had to wonder if the match brought back any special memories of his time battling Barcelona.
“I remember many in Liga or in Champions League when we’ve faced off,” he shared. “The goal where I made the silence gesture [to the Barcelona faithful in Camp Nou], which has stayed in history. I have many good memories of those games and some bad ones, because they won many times against us too, but they’re special matches of a big rivalry where you always want to play and you always want to give the best of yourself.”
He also shared his thoughts on his time with New York and how he enjoyed his final season as a player.
“For me, it was a very nice year. I had the dream of living here with my family, to have an experience and there was no better club here in New York than the New York Cosmos with all their history.”
“It was a major labor of Coach Giovanni Savarese who convinced me to come here and play. Marcos Senna, Ayoze, Carlos Mendes, Jimmy Maurer, Freeman, Szetela, Restrepo, many people; We were a team, but we were like a family. The truth is it was a very nice year with many anecdotes, many experiences and I really have a lot of affection towards it because it was my last year, we won the title and there couldn’t have been a better farewell, right?”
He was also happy that the club had survived its near death experience at the end of the year.
“It was such a disillusion when the Cosmos disappeared after winning another title, but another owner is here with dreams and desires. The team has continued playing. They’ve already played four games this season in another location but with the same dreams and the same passion. I think the Cosmos are doing well. I wish them all the best, all the luck.”As it turned out, he not only reflected on his time with the Cosmos in the past, but also stayed connected with how they are doing now.
“I’m happy they tied yesterday 1-1. At the end, it was a little bit of a disappointment, but the team is still building up with many new players and I’m sure, little by little, they’ll find their rhythm. The season just started and all the best still lies ahead.”
Despite the misfortunes that befell the club, he remains convinced that the sport is doing well in the United States overall, but he hopes to see better cooperation between two leagues, in particular, for the good of the sport.
“Soccer here is growing very much. There’s many leagues. MLS everyday has more franchises that want to join. The stadiums always look full.”
“The NASL has less teams this year. In my point of view, we’ll have to see what happens between the USL and the NASL. I think a unification would be good, making a league that was a little stronger and seeing some of the better teams go to MLS.”