BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
LUIS RUBIALES will be forever known as the straight-talking administrator who rocked the World Cup before a ball was kicked.
But Sean Murdoch will always remember him as a true gentleman who invited the entire Hamilton squad to meet up in Spain.
Rubiales, the President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, stunned the sport on the eve of the competition when he dismissed boss Julen Lopetegui following his clandestine agreement to become Real Madrid manager.
Murdoch confesses that he did a double-take after seeing his former Accies teammate addressing the world’s media in Russia.
However, as he recalls the diminutive left-back who struggled in Scotland but won plenty of friends, he can understand how Rubiales has risen through the ranks of officialdom.
“I had no idea at all that Ruby [Rubiales] was in that role until everything exploded on TV and social media,” said Murdoch. “I clicked on one story and thought ‘no way, he’s the top man there!’ Good for him.
“He was such a gentleman. I spoke to him most days, he had excellent English and he was lovely to everyone.
“Ruby left Hamilton early to go back home early and I can remember he gathered the whole squad in the dressing room for a meeting to say goodbye. He wanted to thank everyone for how welcome we had made him.
“He gave out his contact number and told us that if we ever wanted to come to Spain, needed a place to stay on holiday, just call him and he’d help. I think he is the only foreign player I have EVER seen do that.
“I can see why he has gone on to be the President of the FA over there because he spoke very well, was kind, was good with people and was a very intelligent man.”
Despite arriving in North Lanarkshire in 2009 boasting La Liga pedigree after a career spent with the likes of Mallorca, Xerez and Levante, Rubiales failed to settle in Scotland and struggled to adapt to the aggressive style on these shores.
“We knew he was coming over after 10 years in La Liga. The boys were thinking ‘excellent, he’ll have played against Barcelona and Madrid’ and all that,” recalled Murdoch. “When he came, he was just this really small man.
“He struggled, to be honest. I expected more. He was a lightweight left-back and wasn’t naturally aggressive. He found it tough in Scotland. It’s much more hectic over here compared to Spain and he just couldn’t get up to speed.
“It was probably one of his lowest points, in terms of his playing career, but he made a great impact on the boys there and it’s brilliant to see him doing so well.”