China’s continued attempts to become a major player in football received an unexpected turn yesterday when referee Mark Clattenburg left the door open for a possible transfer to the Chinese Super League.
Not content with snapping up the world’s best players for ludicrous sums of money, referees are next on their list and despite quashing rumours that he was leaving the Premier League at the start of the week, Clattenburg could see a future outside of England in the near future.
“China are certainly looking to develop their football, looking at their signings and their recruitment,” Clattenburg said. “If an opportunity came along — I am contracted to the Premier League — but I have to look at my long-term strategy of my career.
“How long can I last as a referee? I have been in the Premier League 12 years. It’s been a wonderful 12 years.
“There is no offer on the table but if they made an offer it would be under consideration.
“But at the moment I still enjoy working for the Premier League and Uefa.”
The 41-year-old Clattenburg has had a sensational year 2016, refereeing the the European Championship, Champions League and FA Cup finals.
He was named referee of the year at a football awards ceremony earlier this week in Dubai.
With not much left to achieve in Europe, Clattenburg hopes to create a legacy elsewhere and sees China as the perfect opportunity in terms of raising the standard of refereeing worldwide.
“Money has never been a driver as a referee, It’s about the drive of doing something different, maybe helping the recruitment,” Clattenburg said.
“If it didn’t happen now I will be looking in the future at that, a bit like Howard Webb has done [in Saudi Arabia] where you are helping another country develop refereeing.
“It’s important to have the right quality of referee to go with the level of football. China is going to become a huge player in years to come.
“If they want to be serious about their league they are going to have to have the right setup. Refereeing is a huge part of football.”