'Someone pinched it' - former Leeds United midfielder on how he won and lost Xavi's Euro 2012 Spain shirt
Former Leeds United midfielder Paul Green has revealed how he came away from a Euro 2012 clash with Spain holding Xavi's shirt, before someone pinched it.
It was after the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 Championship campaign that Green, without a club having rejected a new deal with Derby County before the tournament, arrived at Elland Road, signing a two-year contract.
He brought with him a wealth of League One and Championship experience, 11 international caps and a taste of action against the very elite of European football.
A late call up to the Republic of Ireland squad, thanks to an injury to Keith Fahey, Green sat out the first group game against Croatia but played the last 10 minutes of the following fixture, replacing Glenn Whelan in a 4-0 defeat by eventual winners Spain
"To be honest, for me as a player it was a massive achievement," Green told our sister title Lincolnshire World."To play minutes in a major tournament was a plus as well. It was one of the proudest moments in my career. I came on and we were 3-0 down. We lost 4-0. I touched the ball three times and one of them was from the kick-off."
Spain boasted a star-studded line-up and the men in green were left chasing shadows.
"I couldn't believe it to be honest, playing the World and European champions, not many people can say that," said Green.
"The pitch had some unbelievable players on it at that time. They were at another level. They were all on the same wavelength and you couldn't get near them - they were probably three or four passes ahead of the Ireland team."
At full-time, Green got his hands on one of the many coveted shirts, but he didn't hold it for long.
"I managed to get Xavi's," he sais.
"I got it back to the hotel, put it in my bag and went down for a late night tea. But I'd gone back up to check on it and it had gone. Somebody had pinched it out my bag, I haven't got a clue who it was."
Green was on the bench again for the 2-0 defeat to Italy and after the Republic of Ireland's exit from the tournament promptly moved to Elland Road. He played 46 times for the Whites before his 2014 departure.
The 38-year-old is currently with Boston United in the National League North.