Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg reveals the worst players he has dealt with

  • Mark Clattenburg has revealed the most difficult players he dealt with
  • Clattenburg refereed in the Premier League between 2004 and 2017
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Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has revealed the most difficult players he has dealt with during his career.

One of the most prominent referees of his generation, Clattenburg officiated in the Premier League from 2004 to 2017.

Clattenburg, who also managed the 2016 European Championship final and the 2016 Champions League final, has had to ensure that some of football’s biggest names stayed in line.

He has now opened up on the players who gave him the most trouble during his time in the middle, as told to Paddy Power.

Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg revealed the worst players he dealt with


Former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was known to often get into confrontations with opposing strikers, which Clattenburg says was hugely problematic.

Clattenburg said: ‘I used to find Jens Lehmann such hard work.

‘He was always difficult because he was always whining about people stepping on his toes in the penalty area.

‘The centre-forwards would always try to wind him up.

‘A corner would come in and they’d give him a little nudge and he’d go ballistic and press players and argue with referees.

‘He was always a difficult one.’

Clattenburg says ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann always tried to win opponents


Clattenburg says Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand was always arguing with officials.

He said: ‘I found him hard to judge in that Fergie era because he was always trying to play mind games.

‘He was trying to get under your skin, probably to get the next decision.

Rio was such a hard player to judge as he was always in your face.

‘When I got older and a bit wiser, he probably left us alone more.’

Rio Ferdinand was difficult for Clattenburg to judge as he complained all the time

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Real Madrid defender Pepe clashed with Clattenburg during the 2016 Champions League final.

Clattenburg says Pepe always tried to win opponents and in the final he was seen rolling around on the ground.

Clattenburg said: ‘I met Pepe in the Champions League final.

‘He was a guy who was always difficult because he was trying to hit things and win strikers up to get them sent off, which isn’t always a good thing when you’re trying to referee a game of football.’

Clattenburg had a run-in with Real Madrid defender Pepe in the 2016 Champions League final

Clattenburg, who was pictured sticking his tongue out as Pepe rolled around, added: ‘I remember coming off and everyone was talking about my tongue, they weren’t talking about my refereeing performance – which was a good thing.

“So I thought ‘you know what, it wasn’t a bad thing to do’. But it was just a reaction – my mouth was completely dry, it was a really hot day.

‘It worked perfectly because when you look back, Pepe was on the floor – and oh my god, what a soft s***e. Rolls around.

“So what I did was what everyone at home watching was probably thinking about Pepe.”


Perhaps unsurprisingly, former Manchester United star Roy Keane is on Clattenburg’s list of those who were difficult to deal with.

Clattenburg said you never knew what Keane would do next.

He said: ‘Roy was physical, tough and you couldn’t trust him.

‘Look at the tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland, for example.

“You never knew what he was going to do next.”

Former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane was difficult for Clattenburg to handle


Craig Bellamy, who played for clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester City and Blackburn, was, according to Clattenburg, the worst player to deal with.

Clattenburg described the former Wales international as ‘downright rude’ and ‘annoying’.

He said: ‘The worst – and I’ve thought this for years – was Bellamy.

‘He was just the most annoying player on the pitch – and he was annoying off it.

Clattenburg revealed that Craig Bellamy was the most difficult player he had to deal with

‘He was downright rude and it didn’t matter what you said to him.

‘I did wrong against him, but what he used to say to you, it was not acceptable.

‘People say you should have sent him off and I did – wrong for diving.

‘I cautioned him at Bolton for diving and it was an obvious penalty.

‘He was a guy I just didn’t get along with.’


Although he clashed with several stars, Clattenburg had a good relationship with some players, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

Clattenburg says he treated players with respect and it was reciprocated in many cases.

Clattenburg said: ‘I remember watching Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo when he first came to the Premier League and thinking ‘f*** me, how good are they here?’

‘I treated them the same as everyone else. And that’s probably why I had a warm relationship with a lot of the big players, especially with people like Cristiano Ronaldo – you know how he was at the end when he was trying to get us to win my medal at the European Championships.

Clattenburg had a good relationship with some star players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo

“There was a lot of respect there. I had such a good relationship with Ronaldo. And when you have a good relationship with them on the field, they make your life so easy.

‘I treated players exactly the same if they were at grassroots level, amateur football or top level. I think the professional players liked that, they didn’t like being talked down to.’

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