Mark Clattenburg has confessed refereeing Pepe was not a cakewalk for him.
He does so by first remembering that he wrongly won the opening goal of Real Madrid in their 2016 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid at the San Siro Stadium.
“In that final, Real Madrid went 1-0 up in the first half but the goal was slightly offside and we realised at half-time,” Clattenburg wrote for the Daily Mail. “It was a hard call and my assistant missed it.”
Sergio Ramos opened the score after a quarter of an hour, but the former Premier League official was halfway conscious that the goal was not to be counted.
After Pepe awarded a second-half penalty, Clattenburg’s truthful response quickly silenced the Portuguese protests:
“I gave Atletico a penalty early in the second half when Pepe fouled Fernando Torres. Pepe was furious and said to me in perfect English: ‘Never a penalty, Mark.’ I said to him: ‘Your first goal shouldn’t have stood.’ It shut him up.”
Having noticed the error at the break, the official wasn’t afraid of being available to the players when the game was again underway:
“People might think that sounds odd because two wrongs don’t make a right and referees don’t think like that, but players do. I knew by saying that to him it would make him more accepting of the situation.”
It’s safe to say that Clattenburg didn’t like having to referee Pepe, and that night in Milan was a good illustration of why:
“But he was a wind-up merchant and not fun to referee one bit, you had to be on your guard constantly.
“Everyone always asks about the incident in the 2016 Champions League final when I did that thing with my tongue as he was rolling around on the floor, play-acting,” he said.
“He did it twice in that game, trying to get an Atletico Madrid player sent off.
“In my head, I was thinking: ‘How soft are you for a big man?’
He concluded by saying:
“Another referee might have fallen for it but I’d done my homework and, while you should try not to pre-judge, I knew exactly what his mentality was like and I needed that knowledge to handle him.
“He was another player you just couldn’t trust. A game could be easy and straightforward then he would do something sly.”