Raul earns Magath plaudits

Raul ensured Schalke made a winning end to 2010 with his second hat-trick of the season in Saturday afternoon’s 3-0 win over Cologne.

The win lifted the Royal Blue to within five points of the top five, which is now a more realistic objective for the season.

"We can justifiably aim for European football," said manager Felix Magath. "Fifth position is now our next objective."

Magath was full of praise for his match-winner, who he says is not just excelling in front of goal.

"He is our most important player," he said. "He keeps running and running – almost too much – but he is in good condition and always there where he is needed."

After a slow start to the season, the Spaniard has now scored nine league goals and says he has no regrets whatsoever about making the move from Real Madrid to Schalke.

"I am delighted that my move from Madrid to Schalke has gone so smoothly and that I am part of a team which is working so well," he said.

"Furthermore, I have a very good coach here who has faith in me.

"Today was not only a good day for me but for the whole team. We turned the self-confidence that we have gained from our recent games into a win today and that was immensely important."

Schalke still have one more challenge before Christmas, though, as they head to second division leaders Augsburg for a tricky DFB-Pokal tie in midweek.