Raul stays back as Schalke head to Helsinki

BERLIN - Schalke 04 striker Raul, who rejected an offer to move to Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday, has not travelled with the team to Finland for their Europa League play-off against HJK Helsinki, the club said on Wednesday.

Officially Schalke said that the 34-year-old Raul stayed back to be ready for their Bundesliga game against Mainz 05 at the weekend and would not play in the first leg of the play-off against Helsinki on artificial grass on Thursday.

But if Raul played in Helsinki, he would not be eligible to play in European competitions for another club, should he choose to move.

Schalke team manager Horst Heldt said on Tuesday that Raul had informed the German club he did not want to move to Blackburn, who had earlier officially expressed an interest in signing the former Real Madrid and Spain striker.

Heldt, however, did not rule out a move by Raul before the end of the transfer window, telling Bild newspaper that the Spaniard would be staying at Schalke "as things stand now".

Raul, who has a contract until 2012, has been linked with a move after rejecting a spot on the club's board and seeing his freedom on the pitch curbed by his replacement Ralf Rangnick this term.

He scored a superb goal in last weekend's 5-1 win over Cologne but hardly celebrated, fanning speculation he was not happy in Gelsenkirchen and was ready to leave.