No fan expects a player to remain at a club forever, however sentimental we are, or however good he is. Take for example Arda Turan, a player who was so loved by the red and white faithful that he’s now referred to as "Rata Turan" and roundly reviled in Madrid for leaving to play for the competition.
On the other hand, Raul Garcia is one of those rare talents and personalities that stay with us wherever he goes—although you sort of knew he would never go to a big competitor.
Last summer when he left Atletico to seek more playing time and a greater role at Athletic Bilbao, few blamed him for going like we did Arda. Raul had always been one of the perfect embodiments of Diego Simeone’s ethos. Fans were thrilled when he was called to the national team. His success was well-deserved, considering the part he played in getting Atletico to the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Lisbon in 2014—as well as the league title that year.
I was lucky to see Raul play when Atletico Madrid visited the San Francisco Bay Area in summer 2014; it would be the last time I saw him play in person in the red and white.
When he left for Bilbao, Raul was wished well because he was not being utilized in Simeone’s team. When Bilbao came to play at the Calderon following RG8’s move, banners greeted him saying "you will always be our captain."
Wednesday he authored a personal and emotional letter for Eurosport, one that sums up the relationship between player and club, and fan and player:
"Atletico has been and is very important in my life. I have spent many years there where I learned a lot as a player but also as a person. It has probably has been one of the most important times of my life. Now I am at Athletic Bilbao, in a new stage that is also important, and I am proud.
In the final of the Champions I will once more be an Atletico. My body was asking me to go to Milan, to live it as close as possible, so I will go with my wife and I will be supporting from the stands. I could not miss that for the world. I will try to push up from my seat. I'll be nervous, but I'm convinced that if things go well and with the accumulated experience the team has, they can win it all.
On a team when you give everything you have, it is normal that things turn out well. That is the only secret of the team. They will play a Champions League final and the title is close. Playing two Champions League finals in three years is almost impossible, and it shows that the team has done things very well.
The final of Lisbon made them stronger. These little battles are what make one grow. The group has learned from that situation and as Buffon said, I believe in revenge in sport, more so after what happened that day.
Leaving Atletico was one of the hardest moments of my life. I have affection for so many people: teammates, staff, fans ... which all made the day of my goodbye difficult. I remember the gesture of my colleagues doing the '8' with their hands dedicating goals to me Sevilla and I felt a lot of emotion. I had mixed feelings because on one hand I was very sorry to leave, but then I was very pleased to be able to go to Athletic, where I am being treated phenomenally.
It is impossible to single out just one of my former teammates, but many memories with them come to mind. I shared a room with Gabi and spent many hours talking about so many things, also as captains. Koke: what can I say, he’s been with me since he was a child (myself almost a kid still) and from the beginning I sensed he would be an important player. I thought he had that personality and quality to succeed, and luckily I wasn’t wrong. Now he is a great captain. I also remember Juanfran, Godin, Filipe Luis, Tiago ... with whom I shared so much. And I’m not forgetting Fernando(Torres), who is exceptional, or younger players like Correa, whose desire to learn reminds me of my early years.
Simeone is a very intelligent man, able to divide personal and footballing issues and help on both for a player. For me he was very important, and so was the coaching staff.
I believe in Simeone’s partido-a-partido motto, and it was one of the values that my parents instilled in me from childhood. I come from a working class family and always had this conviction that with work, effort, and if you believe, you can achieve things. It is a phrase that has further strengthened my conviction that I’ve had since childhood.
Fans, players, coaches and directors, I carry you in my heart, and I hope we can celebrate the title together.
A hug for everyone.