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Spanish Football News Blog

The latest football news from Spain covering La Liga, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, Malaga etc.

Real Madrid Track Former Inter Coach Roberto Mancini - Report
29 October 2009

With Manuel Pellegrini's position at the helm of los Merengues increasingly unclear, Florentino Perez is reputedly looking for potential successors. His head is supposedly turned towards Italy...

Real Madrid are following former Inter coach Roberto Mancini, hoping to open up dialogue with him should Manuel Pellegrini be dismissed.

According to Il Corriere Dello Sport, the Italian is in pole position to take the reigns at the Bernabeu if Los Merengues decide to part company with the Chilean coach.

The recent loss to third tier side Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey has sparked panic at the club and it is said that president Florentino Perez, who invested a record sum in the club this summer, is considering change.

Mancini has been out of work since being sacked by the Nerazzurri in 2008. However, his experience of managing a big dressing room with major stars makes him the ideal candidate.

Perez has made it clear that Pellegrini has time to turn things around. However, reports claim the clock is ticking and the coach has just 180 minutes of football to prove himself - matches against Getafe and Milan.

Luciano Spalletti's name has also made space in the Italian media, but he is close to Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.


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VIDEO: Alcorcón 4 - Real Madrid 0
28 October 2009

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Real Madrid thrashed by lowly Alcorcón in Copa del Rey
28 October 2009

The first humiliation of Real Madrid's second galactic age arrived in the Copa del Rey last night, when Manuel Pellegrini's side were hammered 4-0 by Alcorcón from Spain's regional Second Division B, Group II.

Even a second-leg turn around at the Bernabéu will not undo the damage done to a club that spent €254m (£229m) in the summer. During his first spell as president Florentino Pérez went through six coaches in three years. Just eight weeks into his debut season, and with the pressure having already built after a series of disappointing displays, Pellegrini will be concerned for his future.

"There's no explanations. We were focused and the training sessions were very good, but Alcorcón played very well, Pellegrini told Marca after the game. "We hope our fans can forgive us after this defeat."

Madrid did not even have the excuse of having put out a starting XI made up of youth-teamers. Although Iker Casillas was replaced in goal by Jerzy Dudek, Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and Kaká and Xabi Alonso were left out, there was a place in the side for the club's other galáctico, the €35m striker Karim Benzema.

He was joined by the captain Raúl, plus Raúl Albiol, Guti and Rafael van der Vaart. Not one youth team player was included as Madrid travelled to the Municipal de Santo Domingo stadium just south of the capital, where temporary seating had raised the capacity from 3,000 to 4,000.

"It is our goal to win every competition." Pellegrini had insisted before the match. That will take a huge second leg victory now. Alcorcón had fired three warnings in the opening three minutes alone and were 3-0 up before half-time, thanks to goals from Borja Pérez and Ernesto Gómez and an own goal from former Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa.

It was 4-0 eight minutes into the second half and Madrid were grateful the scoreline was not even more embarrassing: the home side hit the post and wasted a series of chances, while Dudek was Madrid's outstanding performer.

"Our opponents...we've seen it 3,200 times before," Pelligrini said. "A team who were tremendously motivated and were able to play at their best. I saw them in recent games, we had reports, but they played very well.

"We need to react. We are going to find difficult opponents all over the place. We need to play well everywhere. I am not thinking about my job or about resigning, only the next match."

Source: The Guardian

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Agent: Eto'o Will Win Barcelona Compensation Claim
20 October 2009

Barcelona must prepare to stump up €2 million for the Inter striker, who is still aggrieved by the way he was unceremoniously dumped by his former employers.

Samuel Eto'o is set to press ahead with his claim for €2 million in compensation after being sold by Barcelona in the summer to Inter, according to his agent.

The Cameroonian striker is enjoying his new life in Serie A but still feels aggrieved at being pushed out of Camp Nou and is ready to make his push for a percentage of his transfer fee.

Barca believe that only players transferred between Spanish clubs have a legal right to make the claim, but Eto'o will take the matter to court, his representative, Jose Maria Mesalles, has confirmed.

"Eto'o is going to win the process," his agent was quoted as saying by Sport.

"We think that we have the right to claim for €2 million as part of the transfer of Samuel Eto'o to Inter.

"We are within our rights to do this and if we weren't then we would not be pressing on. We have set the judicial ball rolling.

"At the moment we do not know what will happen, but I think things will turn out well because we have the rights in this case."


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Player Ratings: Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-5 Spain
15 October 2009

Spain were in good form as they completed a 100 per cent record in their World Cup qualifying group by beating Bosnia-Herzegovina. watched the game and gave each player a mark out of ten...


Nemanja Supic - 5.5: Was exposed for the first goal and looked shaky for long periods before a couple of good late saves lifted him.

Sanel Jahic - 5.5: Riera could have had a hat-trick as he allowed the Liverpool star far too much space in which to play.

Safet Nadarevic - 6: Was much more composed than his central partner and he prevented the scoreline being even higher.

Emir Spahic - 5: Showed little leadership against a Spanish side that ran him ragged and he will want to forget this performance quickly.

Sejad Salihovic - 5.5: Looked confident in patches and Spain had to look centrally to create their chances.

Elvir Rahimic - 6: Went off at the start of the second period after a hard-working display in the midfield.

Samir Muratovic - 5.5: Worked hard when having to track back and was able to show good technical ability when going forward.

Zvjezdan Misimovic - 6.5: Could have scored early on but his finish was poor but he recovered well and deserved his late goal.

Vedad Ibisevic - 6: Slightly greedy at key moments, but he showed great ability to move into positions and beat players.

Miralem Pjanic - 6: Impressed at times and will give many more teams problems and he at least ensured Casillas had to stay alert.

Edin Dzeko - 6.5: Scored in the closing moments after failing to take advantage of some the space afforded to Bosnia in the first half.


Zlatan Bajramovic - 5.5: Entered the fray and was unable to help Bosnia mount too many attacks until the last few minutes.

Admir Vladavic - 6: Looked lively when he went on and his speed down the right could have crated more goals.

Mirko Hrgovic - 5.5: Did not make any major mistakes when going on.


Iker Casillas - 7: Will have been upset to have conceded twice at the end after a strong of good saves kept Bosnia out.

Andoni Iraola - 5.5: Looked nervy and his late defensive error for Bosnia's second goal may shake his confidence.

Gerard Pique - 7: A fine headed goal and some good technique to move forward, but he did make two mistakes in the opening period.

Raul Albiol - 6.5: Spain may have netted five but the Real Madrid defender joined Pique in showing some tired touches and gave away clumsy fouls.

Joan Capdevila - 7: Calm and collected he was able to sit back and ensure that Bosnia did not have too much enjoyment on his flank.

Sergi Busquets - 6: Probably Spain's quietest performer as it was hard to tell he was on the pitch in the first half.

Xabi Alonso  - 7: The expected range of good touches were on display even if he did little to stand out in the centre.

Andres Iniesta - 8: Is looking better and better as he makes his return to full fitness from an injury and he stood out tonight.

Albert Rieira - 6: Should have had a hat-trick and has a low mark because he did not take one of his many chances.

David Silva - 8: An outstanding performance that was capped with a great goal after he produced passing and movement of quality.

Alvaro Negredo 8: Came good in the second half as he scored twice and set up another to prove he does have what it takes at this level.

Marcos Senna 5.5: Settled in and made few mistakes, but was on the pitch when Bosnia netted two late goals.

Sergio Ramos 5.5: Also on as Spain conceded and he will not have been pleased about that.

Juan Mata - 7: What more can a coach ask for than a forward to go on and score a goal and he did just that.


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Spain Are The Best Team In Europe - Bosnia Coach Blazevic
15 October 2009

Bosnia and Herzegovina coach Miroslav Blazevic has described Spain as the best team in Europe after the Euro 2008 champions beat his side on a 5-2 scoreline to complete a perfect World Cup qualifying campaign.

The veteran coach said that the Spaniards are the best team he has seen collectively and individually but says even such a good team need a little luck to win he World Cup.

"Spain is the best team that has played in Bosnia. One of the best football teams around. It's a group that stands out for the collective game. If you neutralise their collective game they can produce great individuality," he was quote as saying by AS.

"It's the team I like most in Europe, but to win the World Cup everything must be perfect. You can not have failures and always need a bit of luck."

Blazevic also took time to single out the work of goalkeeper Iker Casillas who won his 99th cap for La Furia Roja against Bosnia.

"What is also surprising is the level of [Iker] Casillas. He is a goalkeeper who will win many games. When Spain look beaten, Casillas never does," he remarked.


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Valencia Rejected €42M David Villa Offers From Barcelona And Real Madrid - President Fernando Llorente
15 October 2009

Despite huge bids from two big clubs, the Spain striker stayed with the club and raised their profile...

Valencia president Fernando Llorente is delighted that he was able to fend off interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid for David Villa in the summer.

And Los Che's supremo has revealed that, after lengthy negotiations with both clubs, he was able to turn down two €42 million offers in order to keep the star at Mestalla.

Following bids and counter bids from Madrid, Llorente was not keen to let Villa go so when Barca made their move they were also told there would not be an agreement.

"Florentino Perez offered €42 million and I said that we would like to have Alvaro Negredo and Esteban Granero," Llorente was quoted as saying by AS.

"He insisted on the €42 million and we asked for €30 million plus Negredo.

"There was no agreement.

"Nor with Barcelona, which also went to €42 million. And then I decided to call the press to say we would not sell because the media pressure was already very strong.

"I'm glad I made that decision, to me it made us famous.

"The other day a Chinese journalist was still congratulating me for not having traded, also several fans in Valladolid

"The truth is that Villa is impressive. He looks forward to the recognition, to feel important and has a huge desire to please."


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Spanish Referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez To Adjudicate In Premier League
14 October 2009

England could be set to experiment with foreign officials as Spain's top ref is asked to move to the Premier League. He will be too old to continue his job in his home country, but he could continue for several more years abroad...

Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez has been invited to extend his career by switching from Spain to referee in the Premier League at the end of the current season.

The well-known official has to retire under Spanish rules as he will turn 45-years-old next year, but in England officials can continue until they are 49.

In an unprecedented move, the Premier League have asked Mejuto Gonzalez if he would like to join them in an experiment that could see one other foreigner also take charge of English top flight fixtures.

After 15 years at the top in Spain and around the world, he is weighing up the offer to move to England, according to The Sun.

Mejuto Gonzalez has refereed at every major tournament and took charge of the Champions League final between Milan and Liverpool in 2005.

As well having experience at the World Cup finals and the European Championships, his arrival will be heralded by managers, who hope to see the standard of referring in England rise.

Sir Alex Ferguson is currently embroiled in controversy after accusing Alan Wiley, who is due to retire at the end of the season, of being unfit.


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I Never Imagined I Would Play 100 Games For Spain - Iker Casillas
14 October 2009

Spain 'keeper Iker Casillas has described his pride at being on the verge of 100 caps for the national team, nine years after making his debut against Sweden.

"To be a step away from completing 100 games with la Seleccion is wonderful," Casillas enthused to AS.

"When I arrived nine years ago I felt proud and happy, and I feel the same way now.

"[I feel] a huge inner joy. I never thought I would get to 100 caps, but from now I will look at 100 and 101."

Casillas is currently on 98 caps for Spain and is currently on course to overtake both Raul (102) and Andoni Zubizarreta (126) to become la Furia Roja's most capped player.

The Real Madrid shot stopper is expected to line up in goal for Spain tomorrow night when they conclude their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign against Bosnia-Herzegovina.


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Manchester City & Barcelona Reach 'Tentative Argeement' Over Robinho Transfer - Report
14 October 2009

All that stands between Robinho and a winter switch to Barcelona is the approval of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to Spanish publication Sport.

Although sources at City have rubbished reports of a scheduled meeting with Barca officials in December the report suggests that the deal is already close to a conclusion.

It is understood that both clubs, have in principle reached a tentative agreement for the transfer of the player during the winter transfer window but the final details have yet to be ironed out.

Robinho will retain the same salary as he is on at City, believed to be in the region of €6.2 million per year, with Barcelona willing to pay half of the players yearly wage to secure a loan deal in January, with an option to buy the Brazilian during the summer.

City are understood to want a straight transfer completed in January but Barcelona are said to be confident that the player's wishes and the negotiation skills of Joan Laporta, which saw them land Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhtar Donetsk, will be enough to conclude the deal to suit the Blaugrana.

It is understood that the final contract and financial details will take some time to be drawn up as Barca will seek to pay for the player over four years and if the deal is not finalised during the FIFA Club World Championships in Abu Dhabi, it will be completed in England before the end of the year.


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Carles Puyol Wants To Earn Deliberate Booking For Spain
10 October 2009

Carles Puyol has stated that he may well earn himself a deliberate booking against Armenia on Saturday in order to avoid being suspended for the start of the World Cup Finals.

The Barcelona defender is one of seven la Roja stars who are one yellow card away from suspension and picking one up at the weekend would only mean missing the game on Wednesday.

After playing the Armenians on Saturday, Spain go to Bosnia and Puyol hopes that to miss that game rather than be booked in the second match because that would mean the suspension would carry on.

Vicente del Bosque's side have already qualified for the World Cup Finals and Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and Andoni Iraola are all one booking away from suspension.

"If I score a goal then I'll take off my shirt in the celebration...actually I'll take off whatever I have to," Puyol was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Iniesta meanwhile, is set to play it safe and hope that he does not earn a booking in either match.

"I prefer to play with the ball and not mess with the referee. I won't do anything special to get booked, because I don't know how to and it would be really obvious," he added.


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Manchester City Forward Robinho Set For Barcelona Loan Deal In January - Report
10 October 2009

Manchester City striker Robinho is set for a move to Barcelona during the winter transfer window with moves already underway to land the Brazilian, according to Spanish publication Sport.

It is reported that a deal could be struck between the two clubs in mid-December when Barca club president Joan Laporta is scheduled to meet officials from Manchester City during the FIFA World Club Championships in Abu Dhabi.

While Barcelona are understood to be seeking an initial six month loan deal with a view to buying the player outright next summer, City may look for the entire fee upfront in a straight transfer, which could prove a stumbling block in the deal.

The player is understood to be keen on a switch to Camp Nou during the transfer window and City may be willing to part with the 25-year-old who has only featured for them on a handful of occasions due to a troublesome ankle injury.

Should the deal to bring Robinho to Catalunya fail the Blaugrana are said to have identified Valencia's Juan Mata and Shakhtar Donetsk forward Willian as possible alternatives.


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Manchester United back in for £35million Spain star David Villa
10 October 2009

Manchester United have revived their bid to sign Valencia's £35million-rated striker David Villa. The 27-year-old is back at the top of the club's wish list, with Sir Alex Ferguson determined to get his man.

United thought they might land Spain's star of Euro 2008 last May by matching Valencia's asking price, only for Villa to stall as he hoped to join either Real Madrid or Barcelona.

But now, with the Spanish clubs investing heavily in other strikers, United hope he can be persuaded to join them next summer.
David Villa

They have made contact with Valencia through an intermediary, and want to agree a deal ahead of the World Cup to avoid an auction.

Ferguson is also set to move for CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev if Edwin van der Sar retires. The 23-year-old, who became Russia's youngest international at 18 years and 20 days, will play for CSKA when they entertain United in the Champions League on Wednesday week.

Source: Daily Mail

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Barcelona 1-0 Almeria
05 October 2009

Barcelona were expected to make light work of Almeria at the Camp Nou and even though they pocketed all three points to maintain their 100 per cent record in La Liga thanks to Pedro’s stunning strike, it was the only goal ‘El Tricampeon’ could find.

The Catalans wasted little time asserting their dominance, barely allowing their humble visitors to even touch the ball as their coach, Hugo Sanchez showed no attempts to disguise his ultra-defensive approach.

The first crack at goal only arrived after ten minute when Andres Iniesta fed in Lionel Messi down the right channel inside the box. The Argentine checked past his man but curled his shot wide.

Almeria had a rare attacking surge in the 15th minute when Crusat pounced on a woeful pass from Maxwell and squared the ball to the middle. Victor Valdes could only flap it away but fortunately for the Catalans, no one was there to pummel in the loose ball.

Luck, however, wasn’t on Barca’s side on 17 minutes when they hit the woodwork twice. First, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross found Xavi, whose gorgeous volley cannoned off the post, before Pedro’s headed rebound was also denied by the upright.

But the deadlock was finally broken in the 30th minute by Pedro. The youngster picked up a pass from Maxwell, spun past his marker and instantly arrowed in a sumptuous shot on the edge of the box into the top right corner.

The Blaugrana saw out the half well in control of proceedings, but they failed to build on their lead as they barely threatened again and Hugo Sanchez looked the happier of the two coaches heading back into the tunnel.

Almeria came out firing in the second period as they tried to catch Barca off-guard with an early equalizer. Just four minutes after the restart, Guilherme whipped in a cross from the left for Crusat, but before he could pull the trigger, Maxwell lunged in with a critical interception.

Iniesta then tried his luck with an effort outside the box, but he could quite guide it on target as he aimed for Diego Alves’ far corner. Right on the hour mark, Messi had a shot at goal which took a wicked deflection off a defender and completely wrong-footed the visiting goalkeeper, but the ball trickled harmlessly wide.

Barca were starting to look jaded and out of ideas. But on 76 minutes, Ibrahimovic, chasing a record of scoring in the club’s first six league games in succession, saw his low shot from outside the box slapped away brilliantly by Diego Alves.

The Andalucians continued to defend diligently, restricting Pep Guardiola’s men of any real clear cut chances while looking threatening when they bombed forward on the counter.

Victor Valdes had to look sharp in the air to deal with the long balls and crosses as well as on the ground to smother any piercing through passes as his attacking team-mates kept on pushing forward but never really looked like scoring another goal, and they could have paid dearly for it.

In the final minutes of the game, Guilherme broke free down the right flank and galloped into the box but instead of taking a shot, he toe-poked a cross to the back post where no one in Almeria’s sky-blue shirt was even close to making a connection.

The solitary goal was sufficient for the Blaugrana to pick up all three points and extend their perfect start to the league campaign as they returned to the summit for at least 24 hours.   



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Sevilla 2-1 Real Madrid
05 October 2009

Goals from Jesus Navas and Renato, sandwiched by Pepe's header, gave Sevilla a home win against Real Madrid, who have been inflicted their first loss of the season.

Sevilla began the game much better than their opponents and wasted a clear chance on goal in the fifth minute. A corner from the right was directed at the centre of the box, where Konko rose unmarked but his header went high and wide.

Just one minute later, there was another proof of Sevilla's attacking intent. A fast play saw Jesus Navas being played through, the winger ran towards the box but was denied by Casillas, who had rushed out of his zone.

Luis Fabiano then wasted two chances in front of goal in the space of minutes. In the first one, his weak effort was comfortably held by Casillas, while in the second one, he slipped and could not connect to the ball cleanly, allowing Casillas to get hold of it.

The first sight of danger by Real Madrid came only 22 minutes into the game. Guti with a through ball to Raul, who did well to find some space to pass the ball along the floor for Benzema but the Frenchman missed the connection.

The hosts would find the back of the net in the 34th minute, when a good combination between Navarro and Perotti down the left resulted in a cross to the box, where Jesus Navas rose higher than sleeping Marcelo to head home.

Madrid tried to respond to Sevilla right after, when the ball fell to Xabi Alonso at the entrance of the box, but the former Liverpool man's low shot was easily saved by Andres Palop.

In the 41st minute, another great chance for the hosts. A good work from Navas down the right saw him dispossess Marcelo before crossing to the box, where Luis Fabiano had everything to score but his header went wide of the post.

The last chance of the first half belonged to Sevilla. A cross from the left was aimed at Renato, who got between two Madrid defenders but his header went straight at Casillas from four yards out.

The second half began pretty much in the same manner, with Sevilla creating danger in the very first moments. In the 46th minute, Negredo raced down the right and passed the ball across the face of the goal to Perotti, who should have done better than sending the ball against a diving Casillas.

And just when many thought the 2-0 was around the corner, Madrid equalised through Pepe. The Portugal defender rose higher than his defender following a free-kick whipped into the box.

Sevilla moved ahead in the 65th minute, when a cross from the right found Renato completely unmarked, and the midfielder headed home from close range.

Madrid then went looking for the equaliser, replacing Diarra with Rafael Van der Vaart, a substitution that left many spaces in their own midfield, which Sevilla could not use to their advantage.

In the last seconds of the match, Madrid could have equalised in a counter-attack, but Sergio Ramos' shot went wide of the post.

It was a well-deserved win for Sevilla, who had most of the chances here. Madrid are now three points adrift of Barcelona, and they will have  to thank their keeper for not losing by a bigger margin.


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La Liga 2009-10 Fixtures Match day 6
02 October 2009

Fixtures for La Liga 2009-10 Match Day 6.  Matches to be played on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October 2009.

Saturday, October 3 2009
18.00     Tenerife - Deportivo de La Coruña
20.00     Barcelona - Almeria
22.00     Atlético de Madrid - Real Zaragoza
Sunday, October 4 2009
17.00     Getafe - Osasuna
17.00     Sporting Gijon - Mallorca
17.00     Real Valladolid - Athletic de Bilbao
17.00     Villarreal - Espanyol
17.00     Xerez - Málaga
19.00     Racing - Valencia
21.00     Sevilla - Real Madrid

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Xavi: I Expect Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas To Rejoin Barcelona
01 October 2009

Xavi has stated that he wants Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas to return to Barcelona and play alongside him in midfield.

The Blaugrana playmaker thinks that it is only a matter of time before his compatriot is back at Camp Nou, and he is relishing the prospect of performing with him at club level after impressing together for Spain.

Fabregas has been linked with a return to Barca for several seasons but the claims grew even stronger this year and Xavi is hopeful that means that something will happen.

"Man, I would really like to play with him," he told El Mundo Deportivo.

"I have always said that I combine well with Cesc in the Spanish team, despite all the critics saying that we cannot play together.

"I think that we showed in the final of the European Championships that they were wrong.

"It would give me great pleasure if Cesc came back here. He is a player with Barca DNA in him and he has shown at Arsenal that he can play at a different level.

"I would really like it if he signed and we could play together at Barca.

"It is obvious that he still has a long way to go in his career, and I think that he will play for Barca."


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Raul Breaks Real Madrid Appearance Record Against Olympique de Marseille
01 October 2009

Raul became Real Madrid's record appearance holder in all competitions when he played in his 709th game for the club on Wednesday night in the Champions League.

Los Merengues' captain has had a star-studded career that has seen him already top several charts, and now he has overtaken Manuel Sanchis at the top of another.

Having edged past the former Madrid skipper in the league appearances stakes last month, Raul has now turned out more than anyone for the club in overall terms.

During his time in the first team at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League on three occasions - 1998, 2000 and 2002 - and six league titles - 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Now he wants to continue playing at the highest level and to add more silverware to an already impressive collection.

"I still have a lot of challenges ahead and I maintain the same hunger and desire as I had when I first started playing," he was quoted as saying by UEFA's official website.

"I don't play to beat individual records but to win titles at the end of every season."

Raul is the Champions League all-time leading scorer with 65 goals and he tops Spain's scoring charts with 44. He has also scored the most league goals for Real Madrid (216) and the most ever for the club (315).


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Real Madrid 3-0 Olympique Marseille
01 October 2009

A six minute spell after the half-time break ensured Real Madrid defeated Olympique Marseille in Champions League Group C and stretched their lead in the standings to three points. During that period, the Spanish team ensured their opponents were dead and buried with a quick-fire trio of goals, which combined with a red card for one of OM's hitherto stand-out performers on the night, Souleymane Diawara, to condemn Didier Deschamps' side to their second defeat of the stage.

Pepe provided for his Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo with a direct pass over the top as Marseille pushed out on 58 minutes; Steve Mandanda was stranded and hapless in no-man's land as Ronaldo had all the time in the world to roll the ball home from inside the box to open the scoring.

Moments later and the world's most expensive footballer was upended sturdily in the area by Diawara, who received a second booking, and Kaka despatched the penalty kick to make the Bernabeu purr.

Then, against a reduced opponent, Madrid emphasised their superiority; Sixty-four minutes had elapsed when Sergio Ramos and Kaka combined neatly to slip in Karim Benzema on the right side of the box; he stroked the ball across the face of goal to give 'CR9' a tap-in.

Until the game's first goal though, Madrid had it far from their own way; a cagey opening to the game was eventually pierced on seven minutes by the guests; Benoit Cheyrou fired over from range to little avail and that set the tone for the first half.

Both sides were reduced to half chances from distance, save for a pair of genuine opportunities apiece for Benzema and Marseille's Mamadou Niang.

The Senegalese striker Niang sprung Casillas into action after the 20 minute mark; he eluded Pepe and found himself one-on-one with 'San Iker' but couldn't convert from a tight angle. He had earlier sent the hosts a warning with his sprightly movement but Casillas was quick from him line to block on that occasion.

Los Merengues, after initial unease, gradually gained a foothold with Xabi Alonso specifically revelling in his tackling and passing duties. Kaka, inside the area, forced a spill from Mandanda, but Benzema could not capitalise on the rebound. The captain Guti then released Ronaldo as OM stepped up their defensive line; the French international goalkeeper snuffed the danger swiftly with an interception.

Ronaldo then engaged the stopper in a personal duel, testing him twice from range as the half progressed, but Mandanda was equal to the tasks.

There remained the threat at the other end though and Madrid's familiar failings of set-piece defending threatened to sabotage their line. On this occasion however, Niang could not connect with a right-sided delivery. Before the end of the half, he would ask another question of Casillas, to which the Spain captain had the answer.

Madrid struggled to make all their attacking components function throughout the opening period, but Benzema in particular shouldered the burden of responsibility; an overhead volley, emanating from a neat Guti chip, flew too high after 35 minutes and the former Lyon man should have put one over on his old rivals when Kaka's deft flick put him in front of goal. Again, Mandanda shut him out when he should have broken the dead-lock.

Madrid, by the time Ronaldo exited due to precautionary measures with 25 minutes to go, were out of sight andcontent to play out time; Gonzalo Higuain, straight off the bench, threatened a fourth but could not put a right-footed shot on target. The same player bundled wide with 12 minutes to play following a neat dribble and assist from the unassuming, but effective, Benzema.

Marseille, although quelled comprehensively, remained spirited until the end. The substitutes Brandao and Hatem Ben Arfa came close to sullying the clean sheet for the hosts, but Casillas was alert to the last.


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