Raul strikes twice in record-breaking 711th match as Barça stall

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The Independent Football

No player in Real Madrid's history has played more games for the club than Raul, and in record-breaking match number 711 on Saturday night, the captain scored twice to move his team to within a point of Barcelona in a 4-2 win over Valladolid.

"I never thought I'd reach this number," said the striker afterwards, sentiments no doubt shared by president Florentino Perez who, in two stints in charge at the Bernabeu, has done his best to buy a replacement for the No 7 (right).

The latest in a long line of potential successors is Karim Benzema, a £30m acquisition from Lyons, who was taken off with 20 minutes left after another uninspired display. The Frenchman has played just two full games in the league since his arrival. Had Raul not been on the pitch, it may well have been Benzema who tapped in Esteban Granero's cross after 13 minutes and Marcelo's after 17. But Raul, who is now the fifth highest goalscorer in La Liga history, keeps getting picked and keeps getting the goals.

With Benzema anonymous, Kaka resting on the bench and injured Cristiano Ronaldo watching from his private box, the victory was bittersweet for Real's president Perez. Not only did Raul score the first two but full-back Marcelo and Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain grabbed the others to ensure the win – both players were bought by the previous regime and at far less expense than the current president's acquisitions.

Marcelo cut in from the left to shoot right-footed past goalkeeper Jacobo and Higuain got the fourth with an exquisite lob from a Xabi Alonso pass. That finally killed off the visitors who had twice got themselves back into the game with goals from Marquitos and Nauzet.

Goalless draws and Pep Guardiola just don't go together. Barcelona had not seen a single 0-0 in the league since he took over at the start of last season but they were finally held by a battling Valencia team who faced the champions without top scorer David Villa.

"We can't win all 38 games," said Guardiola afterwards. "I don't believe any team in Europe can win all their league games. This is a point gained, not two lost. They were all over us in the first half but we improved in the second and I'm pleased with the performance."

The draw represented the first points dropped this season for Barcelona but Seville failed to take advantage. Fresh from beating Real Madrid, they lost 1-0 to Deportivo.

Former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi has warned the club that their policy of signing players on their last legs is ruining them. With the Italians poised to take David Beckham on loan again in January, Sacchi said: "Milan were once an innovative club, now I don't recognise them. They are living in the past and not looking to the future. The club did not know how to regenerate after their last Champions League win. They should have signed young players but instead they started with this policy of buying players who are over the hill."

Milan's struggles this season have been compounded by Internazionale's continued success, and Jose Mourinho's side stayed top by thumping Genoa 5-0. Dejan Stankovic was the star, volleying a poor Marco Amelia goal-kick back over the keeper's head from the halfway line. Mario Balotelli grabbed a goal, as did Esteban Cambiasso, Maicon and Patrick Vieira to complete the rout.

Two years ago, the Rossoneri won their seventh European Cup. So far this season, despite a 2-1 win against Roma last night, they lie eighth in Serie A. Sacchi's criticism seems accurate: losing top scorer Kaka to Real Madrid in the summer was a big blow and with just six goals from eight games, Milan have one of the worst attacks in Serie A. A club which once boasted such defensive stalwarts as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta also look shaky at the back: Roma's opener last night came from a botched Thiago Silva back-pass.

Most fans remain solidly behind manager Leonardo. Victory over Roma will have eased any pressure he might feel, yet it did not hide the long-term problems of an ageing squad, decreasing revenues and an owner – Silvio Berlusconi – whose attention is currently on other things.

Fans are placing much emphasis (perhaps unrealistically) on a big signing in January. For now, Leonardo will be hoping that old stalwarts like Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini (and, come December, David Beckham) can keep the club in the hunt for the Champions League places.

Additional reporting by John McManus