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The Ten Best Football Referees Of All Time

A game of football cannot start or go well without a referee. The main role and responsibility of the referee is to make sure all rules are followed strictly during the course of a football match. Sometimes, referees’ decisions are viewed as unfair or even absolutely unacceptable. Why? In the end, referees are all humans and it is not easy for humans to pursue complete justice. Stay tuned, the football online website will provide you with a list of 10 of the best football referees of all time. 

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1. Pier-Luigi Collina

You cannot prove yourself to be a big fan of football if you cannot recognize this referee. Pier Luigi Collina is an Italian former football referee who started this career in 1997, served his term as a FIFA listed referee from 1995 to 2005, and worked as a Chief of Football Federation of Ukraine since 2010. 

His memorable matches include the Olympic 96’ Men’s football final between Nigeria and Argentina and the UEFA final match between Bayern Munich and Manchester United. He has very distinctive features due to a disease called alopecia, which led him to lose all facial hair. 

His greatest achievement is the award of IFFHS World Best Referee of the year for a record of six consecutive times. Now he is a consultant for UEFA Referees Committee. The football world will never forget that he is the best referee of international modern football. 

2. Frank de Bleeckere

Frank de Bleeckere’s initial dream was to become a football player, unluckily his injuries hindered his attempts to make it happen. He then decided to take another career path to become a referee. It turned out to be one of his best decisions as he was a Belgian multiple award-winning referee for a record seven times from 2000 to 2013. Before that time, he was a FIFA affiliated referee from 1998 to 2012. 

Though he made a debut in 1984, he didn’t work as an international referee until the match between Cyprus and Ireland at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifier on 24 March 2001. He is also known as the only Belgian referee to officiate in 7 world cup games. 

He retired in 2011 and served as one of the 16 “Refereeing Technical Advisors” of FIFA in 2012.  

3. Oscar Ruiz

Oscar Ruiz is from Columbia and actually a lawyer. He retired in 2011 and made his name as one of the best Colombian referees of all time. He acted as a FIFA-listed referee from 1995 to 2011 and it was also in 1995 Ruiz made his debut internationally in a match between Paraguay and Venezuela. 

Then he officiated in 3 consecutive seasons of FIFA World Cups in 2002, 2006, and 2010. He is no longer working as a referee but still follows his passion by serving his terms as a FIFA instructor. 

4. Markus Merk

Markus started to work as a Bundesliga referee when he was 25 in 1988, which makes him the youngest referee in Bundesliga matches. He is also a record holder for officiating the highest numbers of Bundesliga matches. 

The awards he has won are FIFA’s “Best Referee of the Year”  three times, and DFB German Referee of the Year a record six times. Merk has refereed many big matches, including UEFA Cup Winners Cup Final in 1997, the 2003 UEFA Champions League final, and EURO 2004 final. 

He retired in 2008. Behind the football matches, he used to be a dentist but now is a pundit for Sky Deutschland, also a motivational speaker and philanthropist.

5. Kim Milton Nielsen

Kim Milton Nielsen is from Denmark and an IT manager. To football fans, Nielsen is very conspicuous for his long neck and height. He is actually 6 feet 6 inches, even taller than most of the international football players. 

He has refereed a tremendous number of matches, including 154 international and 53 UEFA Champions League matches. He started his career when he was 15 and first became the FIFA affiliated referee in 1988 at the very young age of 28. He then continued his duty and retired on 16th May 2006 when he reached the UEFA regulated age limit at 45. 

Some outstanding matches he has taken part in included FIFA 2011 semi final, between Brazil and Turkey, and three UEFA Champions League Finals, in 2003, 2004 and 2005. 

6. Pedro Proenca

Pedro Proenca is from Portugal and still officiating international football games. He became the first referee ever to referee both the finals of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA European Championship in the same year. Then he also refereed both the Portuguese Super Cup and Cup of Portugal. 

Proenca became the FIFA affiliated referee in 2003 and appeared in the UEFA’s Elite category in 2009. He was awarded the Best Referee of the Year in 2007 and 2011 by the Portuguese Football Federation and the IFFHS World’s Best Referee in 2007, 2011, and 2012. 

7. Michel Vautrot

Michel is one of the best French referees. He has much working experience in international matches, including two matches in the 1982 FIFA World Cup and three matches in 1986. In 1986, he also officiated the EURO cup final between FC Steaua Bucharest and FC Barcelona. 

He has won the IFFHS best referee award twice. Aside from his remarkable success mentioned above, Michel was once criticized for a match-fixing scandal in which FIFA banned FC Roma for bribing him with 50,000 Euros in the 1986 European Cup semi-final between Roma and Dundee United. 

8. Peter Mikkelsen

Peter Mikkelsen is often considered as the pioneer of the great Danish refereeing. He was a FIFA listed referee from 1985 to 1996; and also a Danish Superliga referee from 1985 until his retirement. 

Mikkelsen officiated two matches at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy when he was just 30 years old, which brought him nationwide recognition. He also refereed three matches at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA. His working experience also includes years of refereeing at UEFA European Football Championship tournaments in 1992 and 1996. 

He was awarded the World’s Best Referee in 1991 and 1993 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. He is not only a referee but also a Human Resources officer. 

9. Sandor Puhl

Sandor is IFFHS World Best Referee four times consecutively from 1994 to 1997, hence he becomes one of the best referees in the world. However, his career didn’t go smoothly. His negligence in the 1994 quarterfinal match in which Italy didn’t fair play with Spain led to the result that he was suspended for 8 international matches by FIFA. 

After his retirement in 2000, he worked as the Deputy Chairman of the Hungarian Football Association for six years. 

10. Howard Webb

Howard Webb’s father was a referee for 35 years, which was a huge inspiration for Howard to choose this career. He was a FIFA referee from 2005 to 2014. He made a record of being a referee for two high profile final matches, the UEFA Champions League final and the FIFA World Cup Final in the same year, 2010. 

In 2014, he decided to retire and is the Manager of Video Assistant Referee Operations for Major League Soccer’s professional Referee Organization. Many view him as the best referee to have come out of England. 

Working as a referee is a thankless and challenging job. They work hard to bring about fair football matches, however, what they often receive in return turns out to be an abuse of players, fans, and media heap on them. No wonder why all they want is to perform and finish a match without negative comments. The top 10 soccer referees in the above list are proposed for reference purposes, to honor their dedication in the hearts of fans. Check out to see more football related news.   

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