Raul Garcia of Athletic Bilbao moved past Real Madrid legend and namesake Raul Gonzalez (550) to go third on the list of La Liga appearances.
Garcia bettered the Real Madrid icon’s number of top-flight appearances with his start against Valencia before adding two more caps to his name against subsequent games against Granada and boyhood club CA Osasuna.
Garcia started off his career at Osasuna and played the majority of his football at the senior level for Atletico Madrid before joining the Basque giants.
The Pamplona born player started off his career with home town club Osasuna under the guidance of Javier Aguirre, whom he followed to Atletico Madrid years later.
Former Spain and Osasuna player Patxi Punal, who saw Garcia coming through the ranks at Los Rojillos recollects his impression of the boy from the Basque country.
“I couldn’t tell you the exact year we met; I’d been playing for some years already when Raul appeared on the scene.”, begins Punal.
“He was already playing like the player he is today. He demonstrated his quality at a really young age.”, the midfielder remembers.
Punal was convinced that Garcia would go on to achieve grand things even when the player was a young boy starting to ply his trade for Osasuna.
“With some players, it’s hard to see how they’ll turn out, but not with Raul. Ever since he was a kid it was clear he’d go on to great things.”
Garcia who turns 36 come July of this year still has it in him to carry on for another couple of years feels Punal.
“Even at this stage of his career, he’s got enough in the tank to go on for some years more. I think Raul can play football for as long as he wants.”
The industrious player showed evident glimpses of his quality and attributes from a very young age. And Punal senses that Garcia isn’t done yet.
“Raul has always been a hard-working guy and very focused on his objectives. He didn’t come just to make friends. He came to train hard.”, recollects Punal.
“He wanted to be a professional, and a good professional at that. And he’s achieved that. Raul will go on playing for as long as he wants.”
The Pamplona native has the third most appearances in the Spanish top-flight behind only legendary goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and Real Betis icon Joaquin.