Raúl's career began at his local team CD San Cristóbal de los Ángeles playing for their Alevín team and the Infantil the next season. He signed with Atlético Madrid's Infantil team and won a national title with the Cadete team the following season. Following Atlético's then-president Jesús Gil decision to close their youth academy as a cost-saving measure, Raúl moved on to Real Madrid's Cadete team in La Fabrica. The following season, he was promoted to the Juvenil C team and subsequently went on to play for their Juvenil B and Juvenil A team. While with the Real youth set-up, Raúl won the Dallas Cup in 1993 and 1994.
He started his professional career in the 1994–95 season with Real Madrid C; he scored 16 goals in just seven games and was swiftly promoted to the first team by coach Jorge Valdano, replacing Emilio Butragueño in a symbolic "passing of the crown." He became the youngest player – 17 years and 124 days – ever to play for the senior side, though the record was broken by Alberto Rivera later that same season. On 29 October 1994, in an away game against Real Zaragoza at La Romareda, he created a goal for strike partner Iván Zamorano, heralding the demise of Butragueño in the process. The very next week, Raúl scored his first goal in his second senior game on a home debut against Madrid rivals and former youth club Atlético Madrid in a bitter derby match. Duly establishing himself as a fixture in the first team, Raúl registered a total of nine goals in 28 appearances to help Real Madrid win the 1994–95 league championship in his first season.
With Real Madrid, he won several honours, including further La Liga titles in 1996–97 (scoring 21 La Liga goals), 2000–01 (scoring 24 La Liga goals), and 2002–03 (scoring 16 La Liga goals in a campaign truncated by a bout of appendicitis for which Raúl was hospitalised). During the period from 1998 to 2002, Raúl and Real Madrid also won three UEFA Champions League trophies in 1998, 2000, and 2002. For most of this time, Raúl struck up a prolific scoring partnership with Fernando Morientes and later . During a La Liga game against fierce rivals Barcelona at the Nou Camp in October 1999, Raúl silenced the hostile home crowd of 100,000 fans when he scored and then memorably celebrated his goal by putting a finger to his lips as though to tell them to be quiet. Raúl took over the of Real Madrid when Fernando Hierro was transferred in 2003, a responsibility he held until leaving the club in 2010. Despite appearing in two finals, in 2002 (in which he scored) and 2004, Raúl never lifted the Copa del Rey.
Raúl being substituted by Cristiano Ronaldo
during a match in November 2009. Ronaldo would wear the #7 jersey at Real Madrid after Raúl's departure in 2010.
He became the first player to score 50 Champions League goals when he converted in a 2–1 group stage win over Olympiacos on 28 September 2005, and was also the first to make 100 appearances in the tournament. He was also the first player to score in two Champions League finals, netting in the finals of both 2000 against Valencia in the Stade de France, Saint-Denis, and 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen in Hampden Park, Glasgow. Samuel Eto'o later equaled this feat, scoring in the 2006 against Arsenal and in 2009 against Manchester United, with Lionel Messi also scoring in the same match and later in 2011 against the same team.
Raúl holds the distinction of having never received a red card throughout his 17 years at the professional level. On 11 November 2008, Raúl scored his 300th goal for Real Madrid with a hat-trick against Real Unión, with Real winning the match 4–3 but being eliminated on away goals after draw 6–6 on aggregate. In total, Raúl scored 323 goals for Real Madrid, breaking the long-standing club record of Alfredo Di Stéfano (307) with a volleyed goal against Sporting de Gijón on 15 February 2009. He is presently fifth on the all-time list of , behind Argentine Lionel Messi, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, Spaniard Telmo Zarra and Mexican Hugo Sánchez.
Raúl and fellow long-serving teammate Iker Casillas were both awarded "contracts for life" in 2008, the terms of which stipulate the contract will be renewed annually for as long as they play 30 matches each season. On 23 September 2009, Raúl equalled former veteran and legend Manolo Sanchís' league appearance record for Real Madrid, and is second in La Liga behind Andoni Zubizarreta, who played in 622 matches.
Along with years of captaincy for both Real Madrid and Spain, Raúl was known as "El Capitan" ("The Captain").
Raúl's last touch with the ball as Real Madrid player before an injury ruled him out of action for the rest of that season was to score his last goal, an opening goal scored on 24 April 2010 in a 2–1 away victory against Real Zaragoza in La Romareda, coincidentally the stadium where he made his debut in 1994. It was scored in the 50th minute after Raúl (himself only on the pitch as a substitute for Rafael van der Vaart after 15 minutes) had signalled he could not physically continue and was prepared to be substituted off for Karim Benzema one minute after the goal. Before the substitution could be made, Real Madrid launched a counter-attack to create a goal. Though Raúl ran to a slow hobble, he shuffled into the box and was able to poke the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo's pass.
Having spent the rest of the season recovering from that injury, the club confirmed on 25 July 2010 that Raúl would be leaving the club, a day after his teammate confirmed he was also leaving after a 15-year spell.
Raúl in a training session with Schalke 04
in August 2011
Raúl signed a two-year contract with Schalke 04 on 28 July 2010. Schalke head coach Felix Magath hailed the signing and told the club website, "It's great news for FC Schalke 04, I am pleased that we have succeeded in signing such an exceptional footballer and world-class striker switching to the Bundesliga for Schalke 04." Previously, it was expected Raúl would have finished his career in the United States or Qatar, and that he also received a lucrative offer from an unnamed Russian club. Raúl chose Schalke because they qualified for the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League.
Raúl scored his first goal for the club during his first match on 1 August 2010 with a brace in a 3–1 victory over Bayern Munich in the final match pre-season competition LIGA total! Cup 2010. One week later, he made his competitive debut in the 2010 DFL-Supercup on 7 August 2010 again against Bayern, but this time he failed to score in the 2–0 defeat. Raúl made his Bundesliga debut on 21 August 2010 in a 2–1 defeat against Hamburger SV. and scored his first goal for Schalke in the Bundesliga against Borussia Mönchengladbach on 25 September 2010 in a 2–2 draw. After a quiet start, he rediscovered his goalscoring form in the Bundesliga with a brace against FC St. Pauli on 5 November in a 3–0 win, and on 20 November, he scored his first hat-trick for the club in a 4–0 win over Werder Bremen. On 18 December, he scored his second hat-trick for Schalke in a 3–0 win against 1. FC Köln.
Raúl with Schalke in 2011
Raúl scored another crucial goal on 2 March 2011 in a 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the semi-final of 2010–11 DFB-Pokal. After being absent for six years, Schalke ultimately reached the finals since 2005. In the final match, they played against MSV Duisburg, the first 2. Bundesliga team which reached the final since 2004. Raúl never won a domestic cup with Real Madrid (the Copa del Rey), but on 21 May 2011, in his first season, he finally won a domestic cup and got his maiden trophy with his new club. They won the tournament with a 5–0 win at the Olympiastadion, Berlin. This success was followed with victory two months later on 23 July 2011 in the 2011 DFL-Supercup against the league champions and rivals Borussia Dortmund.
In European play, Raúl has since become the highest goal scorer in all UEFA competitions with 73 goals, ahead of Milan veteran Filippo Inzaghi with 70 goals. He scored 71 goals in Champions League (66 goals with Real Madrid and five with Schalke 04) and addition his two goals with Los Blancos, one goal in 2000 UEFA Super Cup and the other one in 1998 Intercontinental Cup. On 22 October 2010, Raúl scored twice against Hapoel Tel Aviv in a 3–1 win, which tied him with German legend Gerd Müller for the most number of European goals. Raúl duly broke this record on 15 February 2011 on his return to Spain with a crucial away goal in the round of 16 tie against Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium in a 1–1 draw.
In the quarter-finals, Raúl scored two goals against Internazionale: one goal in the first leg, a 5–2 away win at the San Siro, and one in the second leg, a 2–1 home win at the Veltins-Arena. Schalke progressed to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history, where they played against Manchester United. Schalke lost the first match 2–0, which was their first home defeat this season in the tournament, and lost again 4–1 in Old Trafford. Despite the defeat, Raúl considered it an honour he had swapped shirts with Ryan Giggs. On 19 November 2011, he captained Schalke for the first time due to an injury to Benedikt Höwedes in a 4–0 home win against 1. FC Nürnberg. He also scored the second goal and assisted the fourth in that match.
Raúl scored another hat-trick against Werder Bremen on 17 December 2011. The goals came in a 5–0 win that cemented Schalke's position in third place going into the winter break. On 19 February 2012, he scored the 400th goal of his career, at that time, 323 with Real Madrid, 44 with Spain and 33 with Schalke. On 5 April 2012, in the second leg UEFA Europa League match against Athletic Bilbao, he scored his 77th goal in a European competition.
At a press conference on 19 April 2012, Raúl announced he would leave Schalke after his contract expired in June, and that "[his] future is not in Europe". Raúl had such an impact at Schalke that, on his departure, the club opted to retire the number 7 shirt for an indefinite period. However, in 2013, the number 7 shirt was eventually reinstated and given to , Schalke's new prodigy.
Raúl unveiled as an Al Sadd
player in May 2012
On 12 May 2012, it was announced Raúl had signed a deal with Qatari side Al Sadd for the 2012–13 Qatar Stars League season. He played his first competitive match for the club on 5 August in the 2012 Sheikh Jassem Cup, scoring a penalty in extra time in order to secure a 2–0 win against Mesaimeer. The veteran also took on the role of captain after Abdulla Koni was substituted. On 13 April 2013, Raúl captained Al Sadd to the 2012–13 Qatar Stars League title. Raúl scored 9 goals in 22 appearances to help Al Sadd win their first title in five years. He was also presented with the post-season -sanctioned Fair Play Award in May 2013.
On 22 August 2013, Raúl played for Real Madrid in the first half of the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu and scored in the 23rd minute. He then played the second half for Al Sadd as Real Madrid won 5–0. On 5 March 2014, Raúl announced he would retire from professional football at the end of the Qatari football season, marking the end of a 20-year-long senior career.
New York Cosmos
Raúl walks onto the pitch as a member of the New York Cosmos for a home game in 2015.
On 30 October 2014, Raúl returned to professional football and signed with the New York Cosmos in the United States. He made his North American Soccer League (NASL) debut on 4 April 2015 in a 1–0 win at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, partially owned by his former Real Madrid strike partner Ronaldo, leaving with a hamstring injury in the second half. The following week, at the Indy Eleven, he scored his first goal to equalise in a 1–1 draw. Raúl scored four times as the undefeated Cosmos won the spring season with five wins and five draws.
On 16 October 2015, it was announced Raúl would retire at the end of the season. The Cosmos finished with the best regular season record, winning the North American Supporters' Trophy. On 7 November, he scored the winning goal as his team came from behind to win 2–1 against the Strikers in the semi-finals, earning a place at Soccer Bowl 2015, which his team won 3–2 against the Ottawa Fury eight days later. He communicated his decision to retire following the conclusion of the Soccer Bowl.