Mark Clattenburg names Craig Bellamy as the hardest player he had to referee in Premier League

Clattenburg quit top flight football in England last year to take up a role as the head of refereeing in Saudi Arabia.

The 43-year-old is still scarred by his experiences as one of the game's best officials over a year after deciding to move to the middle east.

In an interview with the Mail, Clattenburg has revealed how being wrongly accused of making a racist comment to Chelsea's John Mikel Obi hit him hard.

And that Craig Bellamy is the most difficult footballer he had to control during his time in the middle in the top flight.

Clattenburg once asked the Manchester City bench: "How do you work with him all week?", when talking about Bellamy.

He said: "I was just being honest. He was the hardest player I ever had to manage – he always had a bloody answer."

The official had always been a high profile ref, but never more than when he was accused of racially abusing Mikel during Chelsea's win over Manchester United in 2012.

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Clattenburg was completely cleared of any wrongdoing, but the scars are deep and the upset still lingers, particularly with Chelsea and Mikel.

He said: "I had sent off two Chelsea players and there was an offside goal late on as well, so it was pretty heated coming off.

"Mikel came into my dressing room and certain things happened which I’ll leave in there. But then Ramires made the allegation that I’d called Mikel a monkey on the pitch.

"The first few days I was soul-searching — you know you’re innocent yet you’re made to feel otherwise.

"It took four weeks for Chelsea to reveal the moment it had allegedly happened, and after that it was very quickly dismissed.

"But Bruce Buck (the Chelsea chairman) didn’t understand that referees are normal people living in a normal house.

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‘The media were camped outside my house for days on end. It made world news. That is hard to deal with, I tell you.

"I knew it wasn’t true, but I could not speak. Me and my family went through hell — I even thought about quitting.

‘If Mikel had come out and apologised, OK, be a man about it.

"But I haven’t got respect for someone who makes a mistake on someone else’s allegation and can’t then say sorry."

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