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Feb 25, 2009

Raúl eyes retirement as Rafa takes credit for his signing

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has stoked the Real Madrid furnace ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash at the Bernabeu by taking credit for signing Raúl, Real's club captain and all-time leading scorer who revealed ahead of the game that he plans to retire in 2011.

Raúl revealed to Marca that he will probably retire at the end of the 2010/11 season, but added that playing for a season in the MLS was a possibility.

''It's difficult because you always want to go when you are playing at the highest level,'' said the 31-year-old. ''At the moment, I have pencilled in 2011. Six months before that will be the moment to analyse the situation and see if it's of benefit for the club and for me to carry on.''

"As an experience, not just for me but also for my family, I could try to play a year probably in the United States. If I did it, it would be for the experience. If not, it's clear that I will finish my career here (at Real).

In a profile of Liverpool boss in The Guardian ahead of his return to Madrid, the town of his birth and education, Benítez claimed: ''I was the one who decided to sign Raúl from Atlético's youth team.''

Although Raúl never played professionally for Atlético Madrid, he spent two years in the early 1990s as a youth player with Real's city rivals before joining the Bernabeu club.

Benitez's own playing career was ended by a knee injury before it had properly begun and he moved into coaching. By 1993 he was coaching Real Madrid B in Spain's third division and it is here that Benitez claims to have landed Raúl for Real.

Whether Benitez did indeed spot Raúl's talent and set in motion the process to bring him to the Bernabeu is a matter of conjecture; others are said to doubt Benitez's version of events and the player himself claims not to have any clear recollection.

''I was only with him for a week,'' says Raúl of his brief time under Benitez's stewardship. ''But I had never seen a coach study every little detail so profoundly.`"

Perhaps Benitez is simply reminiscing, or trying to establish himself in the fabric of the club to which he has been repeatedly linked with managing. Others will view the seemingly innocuous comment as an attempt to stir things up ahead of Wednesday's last 16 match.

If the comments reach Raúl, who has spent his entire club career with Real Madrid winning six La Liga titles and three European Cups, perhaps he will answer with a goal, which would extend his lead as the Champions League record goal scorer - with 64 - and reinforce his position as a Real Madrid legend.

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