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Mark Clattenburg Reveals Lionel Messi Forced Him To Change His Refereeing Approach

Mark Clattenburg Reveals Lionel Messi Forced Him To Change His Refereeing Approach

Mark Clattenburg had to change the way in which he refereed games after first officiating Lionel Messi.

The English official had never been on the same pitch as Messi until he took charge of Barcelona's Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain.

Straight away he was in awe of the Argentine's talents and although he ended up booking, Messi's unparalleled ability with the ball forced him to adapt his refereeing style.

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Image: PA
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When I first refereed Messi, I was shell-shocked, genuinely," Clattenburg said in his column for the Daily Mail.

"It was Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain and, being so close, I remember thinking: 'Oh my God, this is unbelievable'.

"When you referee, you tend to watch the ball. With him, you could lose the ball, so imagine what it was like for defenders!

"I had to change the way I analysed the situation when he was on the ball. He was so skilful that opponents would try to stop him in different ways, sometimes by fouling him on the foot, sometimes with their upper body.

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"I cautioned him in that first game against PSG for standing on an opponent's foot, but he never complained or said anything.

"He never engaged at all, in fact. That was just him.

"But, as a referee, you looked forward to sharing a pitch with Messi because you knew the game could be special."

Clattenburg has also had the pleasure of refereeing Cristiano Ronaldo on various occasions, including both the Champions League and Euro 2016 finals mere weeks apart four years back.

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The 45-year old developed a good relationship with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner - even receiving a huge and a signed shirt off him on separate occasions.

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"I refereed him as a young player in the Premier League, then at Real Madrid and he always delivered," Clattenburg said.

"You just knew you were sharing the pitch with a truly unique player who could change the game in an instant.

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"And I got on very well with him. When I went up the stairs to get my medal after the Euro 2016 final, he tried to grab me and give me a hug - that was the level of respect we had.

"I was disappointed when he got injured early in the final because the game lost a great player.

"But I never treated him differently from any other player and I think that's why we had a good relationship.

"After one game, a shirt came into my dressing room signed: 'To Mark, best wishes, Cristiano Ronaldo'. I hadn't even asked for it. It was such a nice gesture.

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"I don't think I ever booked him - maybe that's why I got the shirt!

I was in charge when he stepped up for the decisive penalty in the Champions League final in 2016.

"My only thought was: "When this is finished, I need to get the match ball!" But I knew where it would soon be - in the back of the net.

"He hadn't played that well and I could tell he wasn't fully fit. But you just knew it would still be the Cristiano Ronaldo Show."

Clattenburg also talked up Luis Suarez, Vincent Kompany and Gary Speed as he selected his five favourite players to referee.

Topics: Football News, FC Barcelona, Football, Lionel Messi, Mark Clattenburg

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Josh Lawless

Josh is a sports journalist who specialises in football and wrestling. He has been published by Curzon Ashton FC, Late Tackle, Manchester City FC, The Mirror, Read Man City and Manchester Evening News. He provides coverage of professional wrestling and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first UK interview with The Hardy Boyz after their return to WWE. He has never sported a pair of Lonsdale Slip-ons, contrary to reports.