UEFA Champions League Anthem at its best..
As I have already done it for UEFA Europa League, I want to issue thoughts about the question that interests us every season anew: who will have the honour to blow the UEFA Champions League final whistle?
At first, it might be sensible to outline the criteria which should be deployed for awarding a Champions League final referee. As UEFA has to expect from all their ELITE referees that they are able to adapt their style to the challenges and the type of the match, there is actually no real requirement with regard to the referee's style. Last season's appointment of the Hungarian Viktor Kassai certifies that UEFA consistently applies the performance principle, which means that they do not really care about experience or the referee's age. The performances, which naturally include permanently highlighted aspects like physical and mental awareness as well as a suitable tactical approach based on an authoritative personality, are all what counts, they are the basis for the final selection of the referee. Furthermore, one can expect from this high profile and well renowned UEFA Referee Committee that they have kind of feeling for the right referee for the tie between FC Bayern München and FC Chelsea London at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Someone called Pierluigi Collina will certainly lay more emphasis on his feeling, on his intuition and on the general impression he has received from the respective referee than on previous marks awarded by UEFA Referee Observers. One can also suspect that the final referee's call-up could be a preconceived resolve, so that the committee members have already exactly known that the concerned referee will referee the final a long time ago. Apropos observer: Vlado Sajn from Slovenia will observe the final referee.
Now, it is time to outline those referees who are generally, i.e. theoretically possible for taking charge of the Munich final, the only requirements are surely joining the ELITE Group of UEFA referees on the one hand and on the other hand - of course - that the referees may not come from Germany, England and Slovenia (involved teams/observer).
Then, the following men are remaining:
Kevin Blom (NED), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Björn Kuipers (NED), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Pedro Proença (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Alberto Undiano (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP).
After that, many referees can be erased either because the performances during the last months were simply not good enough, or because at least one of these referees has not refereed more than one Group Stage match in this UEFA Champions League season, or finally because they have already refereed a semifinal (one of them, Kassai, was also the final referee of 2011).
Then, the following men are remaining:
Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Pedro Proença (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Alberto Undiano (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP).
The Swedish Eriksson surely counts to the group of officials who were the best this season. He has overseen 6 matches, including the first leg of the quarterfinal between AC Milan and FC Barcelona. In addition to this, he has refereed the 1st leg of the UEFA Europa League semifinal between Sporting and Athletic. One may not forget him, UEFA seems to like him a lot, nonetheless, it is more likely unprobable that he will be the man in the middle.
The "flying Dutchman" Björn Kuipers has announced in a Dutch newspaper that he will not be involved in a final this time, so he can be "erased" as well.
French referee Stéphane Lannoy had a decent round of 16 performance, probably not enough for a final. Besides, he has already been assigned to accompany the German referee team in Bucharest's UEFA Europa League final so that he is no real candidate for it either.
Svein Oddvar Moen of Norway, certainly a good referee, a talent. He had many good matches in UEFA Champions League, but also some negative points, especially in Villarreal-Napoli. He is still very young, for this reason, a final would definitely come too early, even though, as I have already stressed, UEFA does not really care about that. However, the final referee should actually come from the UEFA EURO 2012 roster which Moen does not join.
|The condemned live longer? Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)|
Everybody thought that the final would be definitely with Spanish involvement, either with Real Madrid, or with FC Barcelona, or - as many thought - with both. Now, no Spanish team is there and the chances of the Spanish referees, which were declared dead too early, are certainly rising again. Alberto Undiano however seems to have arrived at his highest level, Velasco Carballo has overtaken him, although the 38 year-old man from Pamplona is still observed by FIFA for the next World Cup. Velasco Carballo, having also been in charge of the 2011 UEFA Europa League final at Dublin Arena, received two CL K.O. stage matches in this season. At San Paolo, Napoli, he showed a brilliant performance in their match against Chelsea. He had however not only one final team, no, he refereed Bayern, as well, in Marseille, where he did not show his best performance (to formulate it kindly). For this reason, it is more or less impossible that he gets the final then - at least as main referee. He might have chances as Fourth Official, but if, at whose side?
Pedro Proença "vs" Nicola Rizzoli
To make it fast, Gianluca Rocchi and Paolo Tagliavento, both from Italy, surely showed good performances in this international season, but finally, they are neither the no.1 of their country, nor it is probable or even imaginable that one of them will take control over the final.
|Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)|
Hence, Rizzoli and Proença are remaining, who have a lot of international experience, but not as much as many other CL final referees had, if one only remembers Massimo Busacca or Lubos Michel at the point of time of their finals. This will be therefore no crucial factor. Proença participated in 2009 UEFA U21 EURO Sweden, which can be seen as one milestone for his impressive career. Last year, he received the first big appointment in UEFA Champions League's semifinal, even though this was already decided.
Rizzoli has more experience in UEFA Champions League than him, has already refereed many top clashes in important stages of the competiton. Along with his EURO team consisting of two of the best European assistant referees, Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani, both Rocchi and Tagliavento as additional assistant referees standing at the byline, this is really a huge amount of quality and experience, of course also due to his final appointment in 2010 UEFA Europa League final. The Portuguese team however is clearly less experienced, their members of less classification. Bertino Miranda is certainly the most experienced part of this team, Ricardo Santos, Manuel de Sousa and Duarte Gomes surely good officials, but probably not on the same level like the Italians.
|Pedro Proença (POR)|
Nonetheless, there some kind of "soft factors" which clearly underline Proença's advantages.
Portugal has not been having a referee in the UEFA Champions League final for more than forty years (even though Italy are waiting for a final referee for quite a long time in UCL, too), now, it would be the time. Furthermore, Collina comes from the same city like Rizzoli, Bologna (Emilia Romagna). Perhaps, the former worldclass referee does not want to arouse the impression of nepotism in his very first season which is really of great importance due to the EURO tournament. Apart from that, Proença was observed three times by UEFA Referee Committee members: Vassaras from Greece, Sajn from Slovenia (the final observer, too) and Collina himself. As referee, you can win much if you show very good performances under their nose, however, you can also lose a lot. Proença struggled a bit under Sajn's observation, showed a brilliant performance when Vassaras observed him and performed still well under Collina. Surely a split impression. The Portuguese has also the advantage that he knows the stadium very well, he refereed Bayern two times at their home stadium, in 2010 and 2011. The fact that it will be a German-English tie also allows UEFA to appoint an Iberian referee without having any doubts. Moreover, Viktor Kassai also had a round of 16 match at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in 2011, Proença had the same this season...
Taking everything into consideration, both referees have many good arguments to offer.
Based on the previous analysis, the solution would be actually quite clear, especially due to the performance principle: Nicola Rizzoli. He is simply excellent, would finally deserve it. Nevertheless, he already had better seasons - I know, criticism on a very high level...
Based on my feeling, I would however predict Pedro Proença, also due to reading between the lines (i.e. trying to understand the course of events during this season). At this point, at this high level, I refuse to make a clear prediction, it would not be adequate and apart from that, UEFA has proved that predictions for finals are mostly impossible, although this year is much more clearer than last year.
You hopefully noticed the inverted commas framing the vs. If Proença will be appointed, it will have been a decision for him, not against Rizzoli. The same counts the other way round. Refereeing also means competition, but it is no battle at all. A small but remarkable difference to the teams and players.
Another thing should be mentioned again...Wolfgang Stark did not receive a CL K.O. stage match, which does not need to mean a lot, but which is nonetheless remarkable. In addition to this, UEFA's mismanagement, or, generally and more neutrally speaking, "appointment procedure", manifests itself in the fact that - independent from who of these two excellent referees will be nominated - at least one of them will remain with only one round of 16 encounter. That is a fact, that is a pity, because both should get as many opportunities as possible to show their quality in difficult matches.