Rendering literally every possible decision related to the game, referees make sure the game goes according to plan. National organisations submit their top officials to FIFA for inclusion on the FIFA International Referees List. Referees receive their training at national camps associated with FIFA.
Being a referee is a much more difficult and underappreciated job. They have to deal with a lot – abuse from fans, players, and media scrutiny. However, they put in a lot of effort to make football matches fair. Over the years, there have been some exemplary referees. Below listed are the 7 best football referees of all time.
1. Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
Pierluigi Collina was one of the best referees. Players were respectful to him and nobody dared to swear or yell at him. Those who behaved inappropriately with him had to bear the consequences as he never dealt with nonsense behaviour. Collina was unconcerned about whether the football player was mediocre or one of the best. He treated everyone equally and with respect.
The 1999 UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United and the 1996 Olympic Men’s Football final between Nigeria and Argentina are two of his most notable contests. He also officiated the 2022 World Cup final between Brazil and Germany. He won the IFFHS World’s Best Referee of the Year award for 6 consecutive years.
2. Howard Webb (England)
Howard Webb was admitted to the FIFA list in 2005. In 2007, he presided over a heated League Cup final. He was also in charge of several high-profile matches. This includes the 2010 and 2014 world cups.
Webb also officiated several notable games in England, including the FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and the League Cup final. After his retirement, he appeared on BT Sport. There, he served as the director of referees for Saudi Arabia. Webb is set to become the Chief Refereeing Officer at Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL).
3. Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
Bjorn Kuipers was chosen to referee an incredible 10 international finals. He received his FIFA badge in 2006. In a similar vein, Kuipers presided over eight finals at home. He also governed his professional career in the Dutch second tier.
Within a short span, he officiated the 2006 and 2009 European U21 Championship Finals. Further, he was in charge of significant Eredivisie matches by 2005. Over the decade, Kuipers has served as a referee at the FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Euros, Europa League Finals, and UEFA Champions League Finals.
4. Markus Merk (Germany)
Markus Merk is the youngest and one of the best referees. He received the German referee of the year award 6 times. Mark also won the IFFHS best referee of the year award thrice. He was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in recognition of his service to football. As of now, he works as a dentist and serves as Lig TV’s primary analyst in Turkey.
5. Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)
Cakir is a long-time FIFA member. He was regarded as one of the top referees in the world and has made significant advancements in the world of soccer. Since 2001, he has been officiating domestic matches in his native country.
The Turkish referee has governed crucial Turkish Super Lig games as well as international matches. His standout performances have come in the UEFA Champions League final. It was between Barcelona and Juventus in 2015. He has also overseen the UEFA Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Chelsea in 2012.
6. Oscar Ruiz (Colombia)
Oscar Ruiz is one of the best officials to come out of Colombia. He was a FIFA-affiliated referee From 1995 through 2011. He has been a part of the FIFA referee teaching team since his retirement.
7. Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)
Known for his towering appearance reaching six feet six inches, Kim Milton Neilsen was taller than most international players. He officiated 53 UEFA Champions League games and 154 international games during his career. He was FIFA affiliated at the age of 28.