Pierluigi Collina, FIFA Chairman of the Referees Committee speaks to the media during the Closing Press Conference of the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 on July 1, 2017 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Ranking the world's top 10 football referees of all time

Without the best referees, football is an aesthetically pleasing game that cannot be appreciated. The referee is responsible for upholding the regulations during a football game.

Each national organization submits its top officials to FIFA for inclusion on the FIFA International Referees List, and referees receive their training at national camps associated with FIFA.


The only official on the field with the power to start and halt play as well as punish players during any football game is the referee.

Referees render decisions about all game-related facts. To make sure that games go according to plan, a referee collaborates with the assistant referees and even the fourth official.

It's difficult and underappreciated work being a referee. They put in a lot of effort to make football matches fair. Abuse from players, fans, and media scrutiny is typically what they get in return


Over the years, there have been some iconic referees in the game. The top 10 football officials in history are listed below.

#10 Peter Mikkelsen (Denmark)

Peter Mikkelsen

The father of outstanding Danish officiating is sometimes cited as Danish referee Peter Mikkelsen, a former official from that country.

He worked as an official FIFA referee throughout his prime.

Mikkelsen was honored as the top official in the world in 1991 and 1993 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).


He announced his retirement from active officiating following the 1998 FIFA World Cup Qualifier games.

#9 Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Referee Pedro Proenca shows a yellow card to Paul Aguilar of Mexico during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 matches between Netherlands and Mexico.

Portugal's Pedro Proenca is considered one of the greatest referees of all time.


He officiated both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA European Championship finals in 2012, making him the only referee to have done so in a single year.

He was a UEFA Elite referee until 2009 and was classified as a FIFA referee in 2003.

In 2007 and 2011, Pedro received the Portuguese Football Federation's Best Referee of the Year award. IFFHS awarded him the greatest referee in the world in 2012.

#8 Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)

Referee Kim Milton Nielsen of Denmark sends off Eric Deflandre of Belgium during the World Cup 2002 Group Six Qualifying match against Scotland played at Hampden Park, in Glasgow, Scotland.

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.

On May 16, 2009, he retired after reaching the maximum age permitted by UEFA of 45.

He presided over several significant games, including the 2004 and 2005 UEFA Champions League Finals and the quarterfinals of that competition.

#7 Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)

Referee Frank De Bleeckere (R) walks onto the pitch with Assistant Peter Hermans (L) and fourth official Peter O Leary (C) before the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen matches between Paraguay and Japan.

1984 saw the debut of Frank De Bleeckere as a match official. From 1998 through 2012, he served as an official FIFA referee.


Bleeckere, one of the top referees in the world, received a record-tying seven Belgian professional referee of the year awards.

During the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match for 2002, he oversaw the contest between Cyprus and Ireland.

Frank de Bleeckere officiated various FIFA competitions, including the World Cup, Youth Championship, U-17 World Cup, and others.

He is the sole Belgian referee to have refereed seven World Cup games.

#6 Oscar Ruiz (Colombia)

Sani Kaita of Nigeria is sent off by referee Oscar Ruiz during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group B match between Greece and Nigeria.

Oscar Ruiz is one of the best officials to come out of Colombia. From 1995 through 2011, he was a FIFA-affiliated referee.


He has been a part of the FIFA referee teaching team since his retirement.

In 1995, Oscar made his debut abroad. He served as a referee for three straight World Cups (2002, 2006, and 2010).

He also participated in the program for referee assistants run by CONMEBOL.

#5 Markus Merk (Germany)

Otto Rehhagel poses with Markus Merk (R) during the 'Help After The Flood: Football's Charity match' at Moselstadion on August 11, 2021, in Trier, Germany.

At the age of 25, Markus Merk became the the youngest Bundesliga referee in 1988.


He received both the German referee of the year award six times as well as the IFFHS best referee of the year award three times. He was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in recognition of his service to football.

He works as a dentist and serves as Lig TV's primary analyst in Turkey.

#4 Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)

Referee Cüneyt Cakir reacts during the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg One match between RB Leipzig and Real Sociedad.

Cakir, a longtime member of the FIFA and UEFA referee lists, has made significant advancements in the world of soccer.


The Turk, who is regarded as one of the top referees in the world, has been officiating domestic matches in his native country since 2001.

He has overseen significant Turkish Super Lig games as well as crucial international matches.

His standout performances have come in the UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus in 2015 and the UEFA Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Chelsea in 2012.

Additionally, Cakir presided over six World Cup matches in the last ten years.

#3 Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

Referee, Bjoern Kuipers gestures during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium.

The Dutchman has been chosen to oversee an incredible 10 international finals since receiving his FIFA badge in 2006. In a similar vein, Kuipers has presided over eight finals at home.


In 2002, the now-retired referee began his professional career in the Dutch second-tier. He was in charge of significant Eredivisie matches by 2005.

He received his FIFA badge a year later, and within a short period, he advanced through the ranks to officiate the 2006 and 2009 European U-21 Championship Finals.

Over the past ten years, Kuipers has served as a referee at the FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Euros, Europa League Finals, and UEFA Champions League Finals.

#2 Howard Webb (England)

Referee Howard Webb looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 29, 2013.

Howard Webb is considered one of the best Premier League and English referees of all time.


Like everyone else, Webb faced some criticism throughout his career, but he maintained a very high standard until his retirement in 2014.

Webb was appointed to the Premier League in 2005 and presided over a heated League Cup final in 2007.

He was admitted to the FIFA list in 2005, and since then has been in charge of many high-profile matches, including the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He presided over both the 2010 Champions League final and the 2010 World Cup final.

Webb also officiated several notable games in England, including the FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and the League Cup final.

Webb appeared on BT Sport after his retirement and served as the director of referees for Saudi Arabia. He is set to become the Chief Refereeing Officer at Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL).

#1 Pierluigi Collina (Italy)

Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of FIFA referees committee, during a press conference on Referees Media Day at Luzhniki Stadium on June 12, 2018, in Moscow, Russia.

Pierluigi Collina was treated with respect by the players. He didn't stand for foolishness and players rarely went against his authority or yelled and sweared at him.


Those who did were dealt with accordingly. Furthermore, it made no difference if you were a regular football player or one of the best. Collina showed no care.

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.

His greatest achievement was winning the IFFHS World's Best Referee of the Year award for a record-breaking six consecutive years.

After officiating Euro 2004, his final significant international tournament, he announced his retirement in 2005.

He is one of the most well-known football referees in the world and is currently a consultant to the UEFA Referees Committee.

Edited by
Manas Mitul
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