CHESTER, Pa. – FC Schalke 04 played its first American friendly in 49 years and in the process said goodbye to goalscorer extraordinaire Raul.
Raul, the Spanish titan who set the Champions League record for goals and appearances during an illustrious 18 years with Real Madrid, started in the Bundesliga club’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Wednesday night.
Raul recently stated that his “future is not in Europe,” spurring speculation of Asian riches or the American fame enjoyed by former Real teammate David Beckham. But he’s not leaving the continent without having made a lasting impression on his Schalke teammates.
“He gives everything for the team, and we can all learn from him,” said Jermaine Jones. “The whole team is very grateful to have played with him for the past two years.”
Fresh off of Saturday’s season-ending 3-2 victory at Werder Bremen, clinching third place in the Bundesliga and a slot in the UEFA Champions League, Schalke coach Huub Stevens gave the fans in Philly a show. Traveling clubs will often rest their stars, especially with Euro 2012 looming, but Raul started alongside Bundesliga scoring champion Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and U.S. international Jones.
For Jones, who was born in Germany to an American father, it was the first of two trips back to North America this month. He will return stateside to join the U.S. national team ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.
“I’m flying home [to Germany] tomorrow,” Jones said. “Then I’m flying back on the 15th to Orlando to join the national team and prepare for the next games.”
The U.S. men’s team, under German coach Jürgen Klinsmann, faces off against Scotland on May 26 as a prelude to the qualifying tournament. Traveling all across the continent, the squad will play Brazil, Canada, Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.
UPDATE: On May 12, Raul signed on to join Qatari club Al-Sadd