Five years and four months after it began, Luis Rubiales finally drew the curtain on his adventurous and seemingly infamous stint as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). The former defender turned football administrator opted to resign to step down in the aftermath of the chaotic trophy presentation ceremony at the FIFA Women's World Cup final.
While Rubiales did manage to oversee a few positive changes in Spanish football, his rein as president will leave in the minds of many for the series of scandals and controversies that Spanish football experienced under him.
Notably, Spanish outlet Diario AS highlights one of the positives witnessed under Rubiales' rein, as the significant increase in revenue at the RFEF. However, what the spiralling influx of cash was channelled to remains another that will surely raise the brows of many.
The sparingly good deeds accomplished by the former Spanish FA chief will surely be marred by the controversies he consistently found himself embroiled in. In this article, we will delve into ten controversies that defined the former leader of Spanish football.
THE SACKING OF LOPETEGUI AND THE GLOOM OF THE 2018 WORLD CUP
Rubiales announced his appointment as Spain FA Chief in style when he fired then-manager Julen Lopetegui barely four weeks into his reign.
The surprise move which came just two days before the commencement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, was in light of the 44-year-old discovering that Lopetegui had already agreed to assume the vacant coaching role at Real Madrid following the World Cup.
As reported by Marca, Rubiales promptly appointed former Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro as the new coach. However, despite Hierro's efforts, he could only guide the 2010 World Cup champions to the round of 16, where they ultimately suffered a penalty shootout defeat at the hands of the host nation, Russia.
MOVING THE SPANISH SUPER CUP TO SAUDI ARABIA
Rubiales' choice to move the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia was not without its fair share of controversy and public outrage. Notably, this decision came after he had rejected La Liga President Javier Tebas' proposal to have Spanish teams play a number of league matches in the United States.
Rubiales justified his decision by citing the substantial revenue generated by the RFEF through the competition. He argued that the RFEF was implementing changes for the better, with the aim of generating sufficient funds to enhance women's football. Regrettably, during Rubiales' tenure, Spanish women's football endured a series of strikes and poor management, which cast a shadow over the integrity of the 44-year-old.
THE COZYING UP WITH PIQUE'S FIRM
The former Hamilton Academy defender was again involved in another Super Cup controversy when it was revealed that Gerard Pique's Kosmos firm had acted as an intermediary for the deal that took the Spanish Supercup to Saudi Arabia. The ex-Barcelona player firm played a pivotal role as an intermediary in the agreement to relocate the Supercup to Saudi Arabia, and they received a commission exceeding €5 million for their services. The close relationship between Pique and Rubiales raised eyebrows among many, as they often referred to each other in informal terms such as 'Geri' and 'Rubi.'
In a leaked audio reported by Goal, the former Barcelona defender was heard negotiating the payments entitled to each team participating in the Spanish Super Cup.
THE BATTLE WITH JAVIER TEBAS
Another notable issue that defined Rubiales' tenure as Spain's FA Chief was his consistent war of words with La Liga president Javier Tebas.
The longstanding rivalry between the pair seems to have spanned ages. Their continuous clashes during Rubiales' leadership created turmoil within Spanish football, frequently resulting in public disputes through the media.
As reported by Marca, these disputes often degenerated into laggy policy implementation across club football across all tiers in the country.
THE DEPARTURE AND RE-HIRING OF LUIS ENRIQUE
Another scenario that transpired during his tenure was the controversial sacking of Robert Moreno. Following the heartbreaking loss of Luis Enrique's daughter, the former Barcelona manager took a leave of absence from his role, and Rubiales elevated his second-in-command, Moreno, to the position. When Luis Enrique sought to return, and Moreno wished to stay on, the former Monaco manager was dismissed, and 'Lucho' was reinstated. This move led to a public accusation by Luis Enrique, who claimed that Moreno had attempted to betray him.
SPENDING OF SPAIN'S FA MONEY IN TRIPS AND PROPERTIES
While it's not unusual for the leaders of major corporations to grant themselves various privileges, Rubiales has also faced allegations of using RFEF funds to cover personal travel expenses and property expenditures, according to a report by ESPN. He has consistently argued that these expenses were essential for fulfilling his responsibilities as president. One significant expenditure that heralded Spain FA boss tenure was the spending of Players Union funds to finance home renovation.
THE WOMEN'S SUPER CUP MEDAL PRESENTATION
If the medals ceremony ultimately led to Rubiales' downfall, he experienced another embarrassing moment during the women's Supercup. In January of this year, Barcelona defeated Real Sociedad 3-0, and the players were asked to approach a plastic foldable table to collect their medals without any authoritative figure to hand them the awards. Meanwhile, Rubiales was conspicuously engaged in friendly interaction with Barcelona's men's team following their Super Cup triumph over Real Madrid.
THE SPANISH WOMEN'S TEAM STRIKE
The choice to keep World Cup winning coach Jorge Vilda stirred up loads of controversies, and last year, 15 players of the Women's team embarked on a strike geared at ensuring Vilda was sacked, according to a report by Goal.
Instead of addressing their concerns, Rubiales reaffirmed his support for Vilda publicly. The Spanish Chief's backing of the coach led to accusations by the Spanish media that labelled those 15 players as traitors.
Several players who stood their ground on this issue ended up missing out on the World Cup, while Rubiales remained steadfast in his backing of Vilda. Rubiales subsequently offered Vilda a new four-year contract worth €2 million. However, the interim Spain President Pedro Rocha dismissed Vilda just last week.
THE WEEKEND PARTIES WITH RFEF FUNDS
In a report by the US Sun, certain members of the Spanish football hierarchy went on a retreat to a residence along the Granada coastline, further buttressing the claim, Football Espana stated the RFEF's corporate card was utilised to arrange extravagant gatherings during these weekends, including orgies.
La Liga president Javier Tebas affirming this report spoke to El Partidazo de COPE, highlighting that organising a orgy after a day's work wasn't ethical.
THE HERMOSO KISS
The kiss of midfielder Jenniffer Hermoso by Rubiales appeared to be the final straw that broke the camel's back as it provoked a barrage of reactions, including protests from fans, mass resignation amongst the players and coaching staff of the Spanish Women's national team and host of high-profile individuals calling for the president to resign as reported by Sky Sports.
Now officially resigned as the country's FA President, his legacy will be defined in part by the press conference he conducted just days after Spain secured its first FIFA Women's World Cup victory. Which was heralded by the unexpected chants of 'I will not resign.'