Times are a-changing for Raúl
These days, Guti isnÃ¢ÂÂt the only Real Madrid player nervously looking over his shoulder in anticipation of someone giving him a good going-over. His team captain is, too Ã¢ÂÂ but it wonÃ¢ÂÂt be coming from a bonkers boxer.
In the wonderful world of Spanish football, there is an unwritten rule that people have to be pro- or anti-RaÃÂºl. ItÃ¢ÂÂs the same principle as people either loving ham or being considered clinically insane and told to go and live in Portugal as a punishment.
Football fans in Spain either have an everlasting love of the name-pointing poacher or possess an often irrational hatred for him. And nothing, but nothing will ever change their views.
The pragmatic, law-abiding, tax-paying La Liga Loca floats aimlessly on this particular breeze like Peter Luccin on a football pitch.
"After all I've done..."
On the plus side, RaÃÂºl is still the top scorer in the Champions League and is just 12 goals away from being the greatest striker in Spanish league history. OK, RaÃÂºl may have only scored one measly goal in open play this season Ã¢ÂÂ and that against an Austrian village side Ã¢ÂÂ and his form may well be described as "bloody awful", but the argument goes that he isnÃ¢ÂÂt going to find his mojo sitting on the bench next to Javier Saviola. After all, form is temporary, class is permanent.
This argument has held firm for years now. But something appears to be shifting in the sands for RaÃÂºl and Real Madrid. In previous seasons, even if the strikerÃ¢ÂÂs on-pitch performances consisted of him reading Don Quixote whilst squatting on a beanbag Ã¢ÂÂ and for all the good he has been recently, he might has well have been Ã¢ÂÂ RaÃÂºl could always guarantee a pat on the back from Marca and AS with a comment that he "tried hard". But it seems that stream of goodwill is beginning to dry up.
On Sunday, ASÃ¢ÂÂs headline read Ã¢ÂÂRaÃÂºl and 10 othersÃ¢ÂÂ in an attempt to perk up the poorly-performing poacher. But after yet another rotten display Ã¢ÂÂ this time, against Racing Ã¢ÂÂ the Madridistas appear to be giving up the goalscorerÃ¢ÂÂs ghost.
On Monday, Marca lead with the headline that Ã¢ÂÂPipita, the future is yoursÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ with the cowardly claim that Gonzalo HiguaÃÂn (for it is he) should be playing alongside the captain Ã¢ÂÂ but inside, the paper was considerably more daring by marking Raul's Racing perfromance with a giant red arrow pointing downwards.
Changing of the (old) guard: Higuain comes on for Raul
AS was equally critical and had a bit of a pop at Bernd SchusterÃ¢ÂÂs continuing tendency to bottle the big RaÃÂºl decision by changing the teamÃ¢ÂÂs formation Ã¢ÂÂ usually sticking HiguaÃÂn on the wing and dropping the less vocal Arjen Robben or Rafael van der Vaart.
The paper criticised the German managerÃ¢ÂÂs comment that his captain always had a "bonus" over others, no matter how poorly he happened to be playing. This is dangerous, warned MondayÃ¢ÂÂs editorial, as Schuster is Ã¢ÂÂseparating him from the group, making him different to players who deserve to be be playing as much as himÃ¢ÂÂ.
Normal service appears to have resumed in TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Marca, however, with ever-reliable RaÃÂºl-rouser Roberto GÃÂ³mez, giving him his support Ã¢ÂÂ for what it's worth.
Ã¢ÂÂThrough the lack of imagination, journalistic class or lack of topics, RaÃÂºl is always a constant theme,Ã¢ÂÂ complains GÃÂ³mez. subsequently somewhat spearing his opening argument by dedicating his entire column to the goal-missing maestro. Ã¢ÂÂSomeone who has defended the shirt of his club and country with pride cannot always be the constant subject of debateÃ¢ÂÂ.
But what about someone who reportedly vetoes signings, alienates team-mates he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt take a shine to and celebrates the simplest of tap-ins by pointing at his own name?
If RaÃÂºl is no longer able to hit the target, it seems only fair that he continues to be one.