Mark Clattenburg has refereed the world’s greatest players and taken charge of the biggest matches, including finals of the European Championship, Champions League and FA Cup.
But while there have been plenty of successes, there have also been challenges and a number of players proved tough for Clattenburg – and his peers – to handle on the pitch
Here, Sportsmail‘s columnist tells Craig Hope the five most irritating players he has presided over…
Sportsmail columnist Mark Clattenburg has revealed his five most irritating players to referee
I knew my relationship with him was on sticky ground when he squeezed my balls in the tunnel at the Etihad, and I don’t mean my match-balls! It was a joke — I think — and I took in that spirit, but there was a bit of history.
Why? It probably goes back to December 2009 when Manchester City were at Bolton and I sent him off.
I had booked him for dissent — I could have shown a red, the language was that bad — and I then gave him a second yellow for diving, although replays showed it was a penalty. I was wrong. He went mental, as you can imagine.
Craig Bellamy squeezed my balls in the tunnel – he was always a nightmare to referee
Bellamy was plain rude and he was livid when I sent him off against Bolton in December 2009
But Bellamy’s reputation went against him with a lot of referees and I think he did lose the benefit of the doubt. I had said to one of City’s coaching staff at half-time in that game: ‘How do you put up with him every week?’
They reported me for that, which was disappointing. What is said within a game should stay there. If I reported everything they said then they would be banned from the dugout every other week.
But Bellamy was a nightmare to referee and most of us felt the same. He would snarl at you and throw his arms around, constantly challenging you. His language was awful, just plain rude.
As a referee, it is difficult when you have a problem player like that because you are drawn to him and it’s a distraction.
Because I’m a Newcastle fan, I had the luxury of never refereeing him when I started. I just wish he had stayed at Newcastle for a bit longer!
I have to start by saying that I worked with Roy for ITV during the World Cup in 2018 and he was a gentleman and nice to be around, proof that players can be very different off the pitch from on it.
Because when he played he was hard to manage. Remember the incident with Andy D’Urso when he screamed in his face, that attempt to bully the referee is what he was like.
I do think that came from Sir Alex Ferguson as well though. It was never about influencing the decision that had gone with Manchester United, it was always about applying more pressure ahead of the next one.
Manchester United legend Roy Keane tried to bully referees and wanted to be the hard man
You just couldn’t trust Roy either. You never knew if he was going to blow up or do something nasty, like the tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland. That was a disgrace, it was pre-meditated.
He always came across as stone-cold and wanted to be the hard man. That causes problems for referees because the ego kicks in and it becomes a fight, like it did between him and Patrick Vieira.
I once made a joke on a podcast that I was intimidated by Roy and it made headlines, but I wasn’t. He was just a challenge to referee — although he is great company over dinner!
He was just so irritable and never stopped, one of those miserable blokes who would whinge about everything and everyone.
If the ball was round, he would whinge. If the ball was white, he would whinge. You would think, ‘Just give it a rest’.
He was a great goalkeeper but I honestly think this was a weakness in him and other teams identified that. They would stand on his toes at corners and he would react by pushing them.
Jens Lehmann was constantly complaining about everything and others would wind him up
I knew players were provoking him but he was probably lucky to avoid being sent off and giving away penalties, as would happen now.
But he would do snidey, little things himself that made it difficult and I didn’t enjoy refereeing him at all. He was erratic and his antics were not easy to deal with.
Everyone always asks about the incident in the 2016 Champions League final when I did that thing with my tongue as he was rolling around on the floor, play-acting. In my head I was thinking: ‘How soft are you for a big man?’
He did it twice in that game, trying to get an Atletico Madrid player sent off. Another referee might have fallen for it but I’d done my homework and, while you should try not to pre-judge, I knew exactly what his mentality was like and I needed that knowledge to handle him.
He was another player you just couldn’t trust. A game could be easy and straightforward then he would do something sly.
Ex-Real Madrid star Pepe was a wind-up merchant and you had to always be on your guard
In that final Real Madrid went 1-0 up in the first half but the goal was slightly offside and we realised at half-time — it was a hard call and my assistant missed it.
I gave Atletico a penalty early in the second half when Pepe fouled Fernando Torres. Pepe was furious and said to me in perfect English: ‘Never a penalty, Mark.’ I said to him: ‘Your first goal shouldn’t have stood.’ It shut him up.
People might think that sounds odd, because two wrongs don’t make a right and referees don’t think like that, but players do. I knew by saying that to him it would make him more accepting of the situation.
But he was a wind-up merchant and not fun to referee one bit, you had to be on your guard constantly.
John Obi Mikel
I have picked Mikel because of the incident during a Chelsea v Manchester United match in 2012 when he accused me of making a racist comment, which was not right and I was later cleared by the FA.
He has never apologised and that is disappointing because it could have ruined my life. I fell out of love with refereeing for a while after that but couldn’t quit because I had a family to support and no other career to pursue.
John Obi Mikel accused me of making a racist comment during a match, which wasn’t true
It all left a bad feeling that still lingers today.
Mikel only heard the allegation from his team-mate Ramires, who did not speak English. Other Chelsea players have since apologised but nothing from Mikel.
He had the chance to say sorry and speak to me about it during a Nigeria friendly in the United States before the World Cup in 2014, and I would have welcomed that, but nothing, sadly.