When most international players come to America, it's because they want a quick buck before they end a fairly illustrious career. From Henry to Slippy G, the US has a reputation for being the retirement home of international football. That's not to say that these players did not show passion, or make an effort for their team that is more than admirable. Henry's brilliant time at the Red Bulls is testament to that. But the Cosmos's big-name signing of the summer, Raúl, blows this stereotype out of the water.
Before Raúl even stepped on the field (well, turf), his choice to join the Cosmos says a lot about why he's here. Despite being a club playing in the second division, the Cosmos are far from poor. But there's no question that no matter what the Cosmos are paying him, there's a club out there that could, if they wanted, add to his bank account a bit more than the Cosmos can. In interviews, he seems genuinely determined to put the new Cosmos on the map as much as Pele did for the old. From the interviews that he did after the signing was announced, you can tell that Raúl has come here for more than the money. He's here to bring passion, and attention, to the team, and he wants his play to keep them there.
Raul is 37 years old. In a league filled to the brim with young legs, you wouldn't blame him for lagging behind the rest of the competition. But despite his age and the environmental problems that come along with it, he has planted himself in a comfortable and very effective position at the Cosmos. Sure, the endurance isn't the same that it was eight years ago, but the experience that he has on-pitch is above and beyond. Instead of being a high-scoring striker, he has made himself a playmaker and a leader. On the sidelines of the home opener, I was pleasantly surprised to see him dipping and weaving past defenders, making smart passes and runs, and positioning himself and his team. His presence is obvious and strong, and it is noticeably felt by the team around him.
The point is, we don't have old-man Raul. We don't have a worn out shell of a legend that will come to the team for a few years, cash his paycheck, and skip town. What we have on our bench is the Ballon d'Or nominee, record-breaker Raul, who, with a little time and a lot of play, will transform the Cosmos not just into a big name, but also a big team.