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On this day: Raul says adios to Real Madrid

Sports Mole takes a look back at Real Madrid legend Raul, who left the club for pastures new on this day in 2010.

There are times in football that a club's era is defined by a single player. There have been the likes of Diego Maradona at Napoli, Johnny Haynes at Fulham and Tony Adams at Arsenal, who in their own way took to their respective clubs by heart.

It is rare, particularly in the more modern game, that a player becomes an icon at a club while he is playing there, but that is exactly what Raul managed at Real Madrid during his time at the Spanish giants between 1994 and July 26, 2010.

Although when he left at the age of 33, Raul still had some football left in him, his career has been defined by the 16 glorious years he spent playing in the city of his birth.

Real Madrid captain Raul celebrates a goal against Sevilla on April 26, 2009© AP Photos

Raul was promoted to the Real first team for the 1994-95 season and never looked back. He had been given a chance at the club he loved, which is a rare gift, and over the 16 years to follow would make the most of it - and then some.

Not only did he get the opportunity to captain the team, an honour he held from 2003 until his departure on this day three years ago, but he permanently left his mark in the history books by becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 323 strikes and pushing none other than Alfredo Di Stefano into second.

Arguably one of his better achievements was that he managed to stay an indispensable member of the Real XI during president Florentino Perez's first spell at the club. Known as the 'galactico' era, Perez set about signing the world's biggest names, including Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham, for eye-watering fees.

Real Madrid's Raul celebrates a goal against Racing Santander on May 7, 2005© AP Photos

However, despite some of the most talented players in the world arriving at the club, Raul remained integral to Real's success. With a team of superstars now around him, Raul won the UEFA Best Forward of the Year three times in a row between 2000 and 2002, and remains the only player to have won the award more than once.

It was in exactly the same three seasons - arguably the most prolific spell of his career - that Raul also won the Champions League Best Forward award, lifting the trophy itself in the first and last of the three seasons.

His remarkable set of personal accolades stretches beyond club football too. Although he never won an international tournament at any level for Spain - their success unfortunately for him started to arrive at the back end of his career - he did manage to break the 100-cap barrier, which is a benchmark in international football. His 102 caps put him seventh on Spain's overall appearance list and 44 goals see him behind only David Villa.

Real Madrid's Raul celebrates with the Champions League trophy on May 15, 2002© PA Photos

With six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and four Super Cups to his name, to list just a few of his honours, Raul was an icon of Real Madrid and Spain even before his departure in 2010.

What's more, playing in a world full of big-money signings, huge wages and a winning-at-all-costs attitude at Real, Raul was noted for his utter professionalism. So much so, in fact, that he was not sent off once during his record 741 appearances for the club.

Players just do not seem to be made like Raul any more.

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