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The 15 best footballer vs referee bust-ups

Buffon's got nothing on these guys

The 15 best footballer vs referee bust-ups
Tom Victor
13 April 2018

As you might have heard, Gianluigi Buffon isn’t too happy with English referee Michael Oliver.

Oliver sent off the Italian goalkeeper in what looks like having been his last ever Champions League game (Buffon’s, not Oliver’s), after the Juventus captain protested a penalty decision against Real Madrid a bit too… let’s say passionately.

Buffon was heard apparently telling Oliver to “go take a shit” (a literal translation, but you can probably figure out the spirit of the message from the context).

Later, he would claim the referee has a trashcan where his heart should be, which, I think we can all agree, is poetic as hell.

Buffon is not the first footballer to absolutely lose it in the face of a contentious penalty decision (though this one was a nailed-on pen, let’s be fair), and he won’t be the last.

We’ve picked out 10 of the best from over the years, from the petulant to the furious.

Antonio Rattin (Argentina v England, 1966)

The patient zero of footballer-referee beefs, Rattin was one of two Argentinean players given their marching orders at the 1966 World Cup.

England’s passage to the final was made that bit easier when the Albiceleste captain saw red, and it turns out getting all your mates to back you up and surround the ref doesn’t make him less likely to send you off.

Ray Wilkins (England v Morocco, 1986)

Ray Wilkins, who passed away earlier this month, was by all accounts a lovely guy. However, he was also the recipient of England’s first ever World Cup red card.

So, did he shove referee Gabriel Gonzalez? Did he mouth off or physically intimidate the Paraguayan? Nope, he threw the ball gently in his general direction, as if to say “I’m really angry at you, but I can’t commit to genuine anger”.

Paolo Di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal, 1998)

Paolo di Canio’s 11-match ban for shoving referee Paul Alcock was the longest in the competition’s history at the time, though we can’t help but wonder whether the official’s theatrical fall played a part.

Should Alcock have also been handed a ban for exaggerating contact? Not for us to say.

Joey Barton (QPR v Manchester City, 2012)

The man who broke Di Canio’s record was Joey Barton, who missed the first 12 games of the 2012/13 season after going after Mike Dean, and Carlos Tevez, and Sergio Aguero, and Mario Balotelli, and pretty much anyone nearby.

Aguero’s last-minute winner ultimately took the focus away from Barton’s meltdown, but it’s always funny to see a player go after the ref when he’s already been dismissed, as if doing so could help turn back time.

Roy Keane, Jaap Stam et al (Manchester United v Middlesbrough, 2000)

Are these meltdowns funnier when you can set them to the Benny Hill music? Undoubtedly.

Jaap Stam and Roy Keane might have led the charge for Manchester United against referee Andy D’Urso, but it would be quicker to name the players not involved.

Michael Ballack (Chelsea v Barcelona, 2009)

Mention the name Tom Henning Ovrebo to a Chelsea fan and watch chills run down their spine.

The Norwegian denied the Blues a number of penalty shouts in their Champions League semi-final second leg, both before and after Andres Iniesta’s dramatic late goal sent Barcelona through. Didier Drogba’s ‘disgrace’ rant produced more memes, but Ballack’s steadfast refusal to leave Ovrebo alone was funnier for its pure helplessness.

Mitch Rose (Newport County v Cambridge United, 2017)

Danny Rose is best known for playing for England at international level and forming a part of the most exciting Tottenham team in recent memory.

His brother Mitch is best known for slapping a red card out of a referee’s hand as if that might somehow void the decision to send him off.

Kevin Moran (Manchester United v Everton, 1985)

We assume Moran was just confused at having been handed the first ever FA Cup final red card. That’s the only explanation for going after a referee who sent him off for a foul which was pretty dangerous by any stretch of the imagination.

Moran’s Man Utd team still won the match, though his name will forever go down in history.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Barcelona (2017)

After Buffon’s red card, Ronaldo was the man who stepped up to score the winning goal from the penalty spot, but he hasn’t always had it his own way.

In this season’s Spanish Super Cup, he responded to being shown a second red card for diving by dishing out the most Ronaldo-like shove imaginable, as if to say “By sending off me, the great Cristiano Ronaldo, you’ve already lost”.

Mikael Yourassowsky (Toronto FC v Portland Timbers, 2011)

For the politest footballer-referee beef you’re ever likely to see, we go to (obviously) Canada.

One moment (scroll to 5:03 on the vid below) Yourassowsky is having a gentle chat with the referee while walking off the pitch, the next he’s being shown a second yellow card before he can be substituted. He tries protesting, before realising he’s probably in the wrong somehow. It’s lovely when things work out.

Unknown Player (Castel San Niccolo v Fortis Arezzo, 2016)

This has it all. A muddy non-league pitch, a red card, a lack of apparent back-story behind this guy taking it upon himself to react to his dismissal by trying to kick the referee very hard in the back of the leg.

Note I say “trying”. He seems to just bounce off the official, whose leg appears to be made of elastic, before the man in the middle turns around baffled and almost looks like he feels sorry for the guy, who’s then lifted up by a teammate as if he’s Scrappy Doo yelling “let me at him”.

Ferreira (Guarani v Boa Esporte, 2016)

Nothing polite about this, of course. Brazilian defender Ferreira has played top-flight football in multiple countries, and is an experienced head, not that you could tell from his response to a referee’s decision in a Brazilian league play-off game.

The veteran didn’t take too kindly to a red card call, so decided to shove the ref to the ground and fight everyone. And if you don’t think ‘man tries to fight everyone’ is the best genre of football video, you’re doing it wrong.

Everyone (Gremio v Portuguesa, 2013)

Staying in Brazil, we’ve got players, plural, going in after Gremio were awarded a controversial penalty against Portuguesa. These things happen, of course, and the hounding of a referee is nothing out of the ordinary.

Riot police being forced to intervene, on the other hand, after an argument about the ball not being on the penalty spot? Yes, that’s a little less normal.

Tony Chapron (Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain, 2018)

Oh, you thought this was just going to be about spoiled footballers taking it out on helpless referees, did you? Sure, Nantes’ Diego Carlos laid a hand on referee Chapron during his team’s match against PSG, but to call him the aggressor would be hugely misleading.

Chapron probably should have sent himself off for channelling David Beckham in 1998, but when you have the cards, you make the rules. Well, at least until you get a three-month retrospective ban from the French FA.

Unknown (Unknown)

This one speaks for itself.

(Images: Getty)