SEEING his old Hamilton Accies team mate Luis Rubiales rise to prominence in recent years and become both the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation and the vice-president of UEFA has been strange for Simon Mensing.

“Somebody mentioned to me a while back that Luis had been appointed as the head of Spanish football,” said Mensing. “I thought, ‘That’s some change going from being a Hamilton player to being in charge of one of the biggest associations in the world game!’

“I found it very weird that somebody I had shared a pitch with was in such a high-profile position. Being president of the Spanish football federation is a big deal. It was quite scary to think that I had played with him.”

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However, watching the one-time New Douglas Park full-back become embroiled in a row which has dominated news bulletins and front pages around the world, sharply divided opinions and taken some downright bizarre twists in the past fortnight has been nothing short of surreal for the ex-centre-half.

Rubiales has found himself at the centre of an international storm since kissing Spanish player Jenni Hermoso on the lips in the immediate aftermath of his country’s historic 1-0 victory over England in the Women’s World Cup final in Australia earlier this month.

Mensing has felt for the man who spent a fleeting spell in South Lanarkshire at the start of the 2009/10 season and who played next to him in Premier League matches against Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Rangers as well as a League Cup encounter with Ross County.

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He can recall the left back, who had previously plied his trade at Guadix, Mallorca, Lleida, Xerez, Levante and Alicante in his homeland, being a committed and talented footballer on the park and a consummate professional off it who was admired and liked by his team mates. 

“I do remember Luis,” he said. “He only played handful of games for us. But he came over with a good pedigree. I wouldn’t say I was surprised that a club like Hamilton had signed him, but it was quite a coup getting him because of the standard he had previously played at.

“Rubiales had La Liga experience. He had played for Levante and Alicante back in Spain. But, to be fair, Hamilton always managed to land players who had played at a good level down south or further afield when they were in the Premier League. Their scouting network was pretty decent.

“You still see a lot of foreign players coming over to Scotland now. Playing either with or against Celtic and Rangers is a big attraction. A lot of them look at it as a stepping stone. But Rubiales was a little bit older at the time so I am sure that was not how he viewed it.

“I couldn’t tell you how Hamilton managed to get him. As I say, we were all pretty shocked that a guy like that had come to us. It became obvious very quickly that he was a very good professional and a very good player.

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“He was a left back. He was wholehearted whenever he played. He was a hard player, strong in the tackle, good on the ball. He certainly added a cutting edge to training as well. That was what we were all about at that point. He slotted in well. He was a really good guy off the field as well.

“He was a good character. He certainly wasn’t quiet! But not in a bad way. He had played at a high level, but he had no heirs or graces. He didn’t think he was better than anyone else. He settled in quickly and got on with all the boys no problem.

“He had the same work ethic as everyone else in training. We liked to train the way we played at Hamilton - with 100 per cent application. He always gave that. He impressed in pre-season and I thought he did well in the few games that he played for us even though the results weren’t what we wanted.

“It was a shame when he moved on to become the president of the Association of Spanish Footballers when he did because he had made a positive impression in the four games that he did play. It was definitely a blow to us because he did very well.

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“Now you can’t pick up a paper or switch on the television or radio without somebody giving an opinion on whether what he did was right or wrong and whether he should stay in his position or stand down.”

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Rubiales, who was also filmed grabbing his crotch as he celebrated Spain’s win in the Accor Stadium, has steadfastly refused to resign from his position despite the outcry there has been over his actions.

But he has been suspended by FIFA and the regional Royal Spanish Football Federation presidents have now demanded that he stand down.

The Spanish authorities have also launched an investigation to see if the 46-year-old, whose mother has locked herself in a church and gone on hunger strike in protest at the treatment of her son, was guilty of a sexual assault.

Mensing, who played for Clyde, St Johnstone, Motherwell, Raith Rovers, Livingston, Airdrie and Forfar before retiring and moving into coaching, admitted that he has had some sympathy for the former Hamilton defender. 

“It has become a real circus,” he said. “We don’t know what his relationship with the women’s national team players was. But I got a good idea of his character when he was at Hamilton and could see the way he was – passionate. I am pretty sure he would have done the same thing if the men’s national team had won the World Cup and kissed one of their players on the lips.

“I can’t remember if he kissed any Hamilton players after they had scored a goal or whatever when he was in Scotland – but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had because that was how he was. As I say, he was very passionate. You could see that in the way he played.

“You could see how elated he was when the Spanish women’s team was about to lift the World Cup in Australia. I think his emotions came out, rightly or wrongly. Everybody, as we have seen, has their own opinions on that.” 

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