Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand was one of Mark Clattenburg’s top five worst players to referee – with the former official admitting his “mind games” were difficult to manage.
Clattenburg spent 13 years working as a referee in the Premier League, while also enjoying 11 years as a FIFA official before heading to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
The pinnacle of his career came back in 2016, when he took charge of the Champions League and European Championship finals.
However, being a world-class official on the grandest of stages also involves dealing with some of the biggest egos in the game.
And during an interview with the Daily Mail last year, Clattenburg opened up on the five most irritating players he has presided over in his time as a referee.
One of them was Ferdinand, whom he says was “always trying to play mind games” during the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford.
“I found him difficult to referee during that Fergie era because he was always trying to play mind games.
“He tried to get under your skin, probably to get that next decision.
“He was such a difficult player to referee as he was always in your face. When I got older and a bit more wiser, he probably left us alone more.”
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Clattenburg also named Jens Lehmann, Pepe, Roy Keane and Craig Bellamy as the worst players he has refereed over the years.
Incredibly, he even owned up to sending Bellamy off incorrectly during his time at Manchester City.
“The worst one — and I've thought it for years — was Bellamy. He was just the most irritating player on the pitch — and he was irritating off it,” Clattenburg said.
“He was downright rude and it didn't matter what you said to him. I made mistakes 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 — incorrectly for diving.
“I cautioned him at Bolton for diving and it was a blatant penalty. He was a guy I just didn't really get on well with.”
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