It was the research ahead of the games that made Pierluigi Collina the most respected referee in football. The Italian would spend hours in the build-up to games watching footage of matches, looking for tactics employed by teams which he could swiftly stamp out when he was on the pitch.
Speaking on NBC's Men in Blazers podcast, former FIFA and Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg explained how Collina changed his refereeing career: “It was simple: he was my observer in Bayern Munich vs Barcelona [2015 Champions League semi-final second leg] reviewing my performance. Nervous? It was a nightmare because you never drink in his company and I always liked a beer but you respected the man. When he came to this game, he said, 'Mark, have you prepared for this match?' I said, 'I've watched the first leg six times.' He said, 'Really?' and he opened his laptop and asked, 'Have you seen this tactic by Bayern Munich?' I said, 'What are you on about?' The small player, Thiago, from Bayern Munich was deliberately standing in an offside position but not being involved in play. He would block the path of Pique from heading the ball in attacking phases. This was to create the space for the big players of Bayern Munich to attack the small players from Barcelona because only had one tall player. It was a clear tactic. In the second leg, after 13 minutes, I gave a small free kick and the players thought I was unbelievable. They couldn't understand how I knew this tactic.” Clattenburg went on to employ Collina's methods in the English Premier League. “When I started to become the best referee or one of the best referees in the world, I knew the tactics before clubs even thought about them. In the Premier League, for example, blocking in the penalty area, I was already telling the players that I'm watching the block. Before it even happened the players are like, 'Woah, the referee knows what we're going to do here'.” (Source: Balls)
The 42-year-old attracted controversy earlier this week for his comments regarding a match between Chelsea and Tottenham in May 2016, and has now blamed Mourinho for his decision to leave the Premier League. “I was refereeing the game when Wayne Rooney broke Bobby Charlton’s record and Mourinho came into my dressing room and he was unhappy about a handball penalty that I didn’t give,” Clattenburg told the Men in Blazers podcast. “I had walked off that pitch at Stoke, which was always the coldest stadium, it was always wet and miserable, and refereeing Man United was never an easy match. To come off that match it felt immense that I’d actually had a good performance, and for him to come into my dressing room and criticise my performance for a handball that I’d seen, that had clearly come off his chest, I knew that I was right but he’d put a seed of doubt into my mind. I drove home 250 miles thinking I had made a big error, my wife knew my attitude had changed, and I thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to be a part of this anymore? Do I really want to referee?’And I went soul-searching, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to and I had to get out.” (Source: Football365)