Taking charge of footballs heavyweights heaps pressure on a referee, but Mark Clattenburg looks back fondly on his encounters with legends of the game.
The former Premier League official's career highlights include the Champions League and European Championships final in 2016, as well as the Olympic final in 2012.
Those matches, as well as 292 English top-flight games, have seen him show cards to some big personalities. For Mailsport, Clattenburg has listed the five greatest players he has officiated...
Mark Clattenburg has revealed his top five greatest players that he has refereed
The one thing I admired above all else was his ability to raise his game when the team were down.
I refereed him as a young player in the Premier League, then at Real Madrid and he always delivered. You just knew you were sharing the pitch with a truly unique player who could change the game in an instant.
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.
Clattenburg and Cristiano Ronaldo met notably in the Euro 2016 and Champions League finals
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.
I don’t think I ever booked him — maybe that’s why I got the shirt!
The first time I refereed Real Madrid, I remember Iker Casillas got the ball from a corner and within three passes they had scored — I wasn’t even past the halfway line! But that is what great players like Ronaldo can do. He was so quick and clinical.
It’s little surprise Real Madrid aren’t the same team without him.
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.Lionel Messi
When I first refereed Messi, I was shellshocked, genuinely. 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.
Clattenburg remembers Lionel Messi's quiet responses to his officiating in Europe
I cautioned him in that first game against PSG for standing on an opponent’s foot, but he never