Mark Clattenburg has revealed names of the five most annoying players he refereed during his career as a Premier League and FIFA accredited official.
He is widely seen as one of the best European referees of his generation, Clattenburg was in charge of the 2016 European Championship, Champions League and FA Cup finals.
Craig Bellamy is the first on his list, He said: “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,” Clattenburg told the Daily Mail.
Clattenburg revealed one incident in 2009 when he unfairly gave Bellamy a red card for diving but says that he was an unwelcome challenge to any referee.
“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.”
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The next player on Clattenburg’s list was Roy Keane, whom he acknowledges is a different man off the pitch compared to when he’s on it.
Clattenburg said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Clattenburg continued with the list: “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 added: “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.”
“He was another player you just couldn’t trust,” he said. “A game could be easy and straightforward then he would do something sly.”
Clattenburg added: “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
Explaining his decision to select Mikel, Clattenburg said: “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.
“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.”