Raul Leaves Schalke: Could Real Madrid's Legendary Striker Be MLS Bound?

Will Tidey@willtideySenior Manager, GlobalApril 19, 2012

BILBAO, SPAIN - APRIL 05:  Raul Gonzalez of FC Schalke 04 looks on during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg match between Athletic Bilbao and FC Schalke 04 at San Mames Stadium on April 5, 2012 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Raul has today announced his intention to depart German club Schalke at the end of the season, with the 34-year-old striker confirming his future lies "outside of Europe."

Here's what the former Spanish international and had to say about his decision, as per Schalke's official website:

"After long and careful consideration I have decided not to play for FC Schalke 04 next season. It took me a very long time to reach this decision and it was a very difficult one for me to take. I would like to thank the club, the supervisory board chairman and the director of sport for being so patient while I made up my mind.

I can assure you that I will not be continuing my career in a European league, which also includes the Bundesliga, of course. This was a very difficult decision that had to be taken. I will now sit down with my agent and take some time to consider the offers. What is certain, however, is that this league won't be as strong as the ones in Europe."

Raul joined Schalke in July 2010, deciding he would be come upon more opportunities to play in the Bundesliga than he might under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

He left the Bernabeu a Real Madrid icon. In 16 seasons at the club, Raul made a record 741 appearances and scored a record 341 goals. He won six Spanish league titles, three Spanish cups and was part of three Champions League-winning teams.

A poacher of the very highest order, Raul remains the leading scorer in the history of the Champions League, with 71 goals in Europe's premier club competition.

Many expected his move to Schalke to represent a winding down toward his retirement, but he's showed no signs of slowing down. Raul has continued to bring a genuine goal threat in both the Bundesliga and in Europe and formed a prolific partnership with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar along the way.

As reported by ESPNsoccernet, the pair have scored 63 times between them this season. Here's what Huntelaar had to say about his veteran strike partner earlier this month:

"He has had a super career, and he still performs week-in, week-out. He is still enjoying his football.

But most importantly, he is still fit from head to toe. The will and the strength are still there."

The big question now is where will Raul go next?

Some reports have him linked with a lucrative move to Qatar, where The Sun say he could stand to earn around $12 million over four years.

Raul's agent hasn't ruled it out, but says no such deal is already in place.

Then there's talk, not for the first time, of a possible summer move to the MLS.

Back in 2010, the Daily Mail reported a deal for Raul to join New York Red Bulls was on the cards, only for the Spaniard to join Schalke and Thierry Henry to arrive in New York instead.

Could that possibility be revisited this summer? Or what about the chances of Raul arriving at LA Galaxy, perhaps even as a replacement for David Beckham?

Wherever he lands next, there's no question Raul still has much to offer. An instinctive striker with masterful timing and a reading of the game developed over 18 years at the highest level, the man who was once king at Real Madrid could yet be king again elsewhere.

If a U.S. franchise can convince him to overlook the reportedly huge financial gains on offer in the Middle East, his signature would prove a major coup for the MLS.

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