By Daily Star for Lolwe digital
Barcelona icon Lionel Messi often makes defenders alter their style of play during matches – but Mark Clattenburg admits he was forced to change his perception when watching the attacker…
Mark Clattenburg admits refereeing Lionel Messi made him change the way he viewed games.
The Barcelona icon shared a pitch with the British referee on a number of occasions, even receiving a telling off during one match.
But Clattenburg admits it was an honour to mediate games including the Argentinian, with Messi even altering how the referee saw games and officiated them.
“When I first refereed Messi I was really excited,” the Brit told Spanish outlet AS.
“It was a Barcelona-PSG and when I was so close I remember thinking: ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing’.
“When you referee you tend to look at the ball. With it, you could lose sight of the ball. So imagine the defenders.
“I had to change the way of analysing the situation when he had the ball. He is so skilled that rivals try to stop him in different ways.
“Sometimes stepping on his foot, others carrying on his upper body.
“I warned him in that game against PSG for stepping on an opponent, but he never complained or said anything.
“As a referee, I always wanted to share the field of play with him because you knew the match could be special.”
And Clattenburg admits he also enjoyed a good relationship with Messi’s rival, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The former Manchester United man even gave the ref a gift following the 2016 European Championship final.
“I arbitrated him when I was young in the Premier League, then in Madrid,” Clattenburg continues.
“I got along very well with him. When I went up he was going to go up for my medal after the 2016 Euro final he tried to grab me and hug me. That was the level of respect we had for each other.
“I was annoyed when he got injured early in the final because we were missing a great player. But I never treated another player differently and I think that’s why we had a good relationship.
“After a game I found a signed shirt in my locker room: ‘To Mark, my best wishes, Cristiano Ronaldo’.
“It was a very good gesture. I don’t think I ever stole time from him at all. Maybe that’s why I got the shirt.”