December 16, 2009

Raul Gonzalez : I am not worried about my place with Real Madrid

Raul Gonzalez said he isn't worried about his place with Real Madrid despite his dwindling playing time.

The Madrid captain has gone from starter to substitute in coach Manuel Pellegrini's first season in charge but believes his role with the club remains as important as ever.

"Since I arrived at 17, my role in the club has always been important and will continue being (that way)," Raul said Wednesday.

Raul's playing time has been curbed under Pellegrini, whose arrival kicked off an offseason overhaul in which the Spanish powerhouse spent more than euro250 million ($365 million) on players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.

Raul scored 24 goals in all competitions last season and is the club's all-time leading scorer. But this season has seen the Madrid captain start from the bench for three straight games for the first time since his rookie season in 1994-95. He has five goals across all competitions.

Questions were raised on Saturday when Pellegrini looked set to bring Raul on in the second half but changed his mind after Madrid went ahead in a 4-2 win over Almeria.

"I understand the coach and I have no problem with that. As a professional, I accept it," said Raul, who described his relationship with Pellegrini as "magnificent."

Raul has spent his entire career at Madrid, like midfielder Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez, who has been eased out of the team by Pellegrini following a heated halftime exchange of the humiliating 4-0 defeat to third-tier club Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey.

While Raul remains in the squad, Guti has been left out for nine straight games.

Florentino Perez's return to the presidency has reshaped the club, with Ronaldo and Kaka joined by Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.

Following the embarrassing Copa del Rey exit, Madrid has found form to finish top of its Champions League group ahead of AC Milan. The team is also second in the league, five points back of Barcelona with a game in hand.

"The team is playing well," Raul said. "We achieved our goal of finishing first in the group in the Champions League and even though I'm playing less, like everyone's seen, I'm training and fighting to keep playing and to enjoy the profession I love most -- football."

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