Real Madrid CF captain Raúl González said coming on in the second half against Deportivo Alavés on Saturday was “like making my debut again” following three months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Even though Madrid were 2-0 up inside ten minutes at the Santiago Bernabéu, the loudest ovation of the first half was reserved for the 28-year-old as he left the bench to warm up for what would be his first appearance since the 3-0 Primera División loss to FC Barcelona on 19 November. The crowd were back on their feet again in the 66th minute as Raúl came on to replace Julio Baptista and reach his self-imposed target of returning inside 90 days.
Although it was another substitute, Cicinho, who scored Madrid’s third and final goal, there was no doubting who was the hero of the hour. "It was like making my debut again today," said Raúl. "I am very pleased to be back but I have to continue working, using the minutes I am given, to get back into top form as quickly as I can. The important thing is not to set dates because I have been out for three months. At least I feel like a footballer again."
The return of their talisman is a major boost for Madrid ahead of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg against Arsenal, and means the striker is on course to lead Spain at the FIFA World Cup in Germany in June. "All I want is to see Real do as well as possible," Raúl said. "Now we can look ahead to the Champions League and everyone has to give their all for these games. I am going to help in any way I can." Should he play against the London club, Raúl will bring up 100 appearances in club football’s premier competition.
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