The best referee of all time? Pierluigi Collina By Keith Hackett

When football experts are asked who is the best referee of all time; one name constantly reoccurs: Pierluigi Collina.

According to former UEFA Cup final referee, Graham Poll, the Italian referee was meticulous with detail, but above all else he was “barely ever wrong”.

Collina won FIFA’s ‘Best Referee of the Year’ award a record six occasions. But what made him a stand-out official. KeysToReferee finds out.


Pierluigi Collina: best referee of all time

Collina was a referee in Serie A, Italy from 1991 to 2005. Born in Bologna, he graduated with a degree in economics in 1984. In 1977 he was persuaded to take up a referee’s course and within three years he was officiating at the highest level of regional matches.

By 1988, Collina was refereeing in Serie C and three years later he was established in the top two divisions.

In 2002 he achieved a career highlight – refereeing the World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil. In 1999, he also refereed the Champions League Final and refereed the final of the 2004 UEFA Cup.

But what made Collina so special as a referee?

Preparations are meticulous

The Italian is known for his distinctive presence, his bald head and piercing stare. But yet, his match preparations were detailed. Poll recalls preparations before a match at the 2002 World Cup.

“He drew their line-ups on a board,” said the Englishman, “told us how they would play, who the fiery characters were, where the likely flashpoints would be, what each assistant might expect to happen on his part of the pitch.

“He covered everything. It was incredible… And, furthermore, he wasn’t wrong.”

A forthright approach

Collina’s refereeing style was seen as ‘fair and even-handed’, an approach that made him accepted by players and fans alike.

“You have to be accepted on the field of play,” Collina explained.  “Not because you are the referee, but because people trust you.”

“You must realise how players feel when the pressure is high,” Collina said.

“Sometimes I understand.”

Part of the reason behind his success was that he believed in letting the game flow. And yet, he described himself as “a man of the rules”. Probably “a consequence of my strict upbringing,” he adds.

Collina still has a role to play at the top of refereeing. Currently Chairman of FIFA’s Refereeing Committee, he has influenced the role of VAR in football. But his legacy lives on, being cited as many as an influence for referees in the game.


Make your own personal improvements

KeysToReferee’s virtual learning platform means you can follow in the success of referees like Mr Collina.

The software means officials can access games and give opinions of referee performance; with criteria matching their level.

A coach can give feedback on the mentee to help to improve development. The system also tracks knowledge and weaknesses can be identified: crucial for creating an action plan for personal development.

Mentors and coaches can use the system together anywhere in the world. A group of officials can be connected to offer a forum for development.

For more information on what we have available to help your refereeing development call 0114 349 2694 or click here.

You can also test your rules of football knowledge via the BeTheVAR app here.

Written by: By Keith Hackett

Keith Hackett
Keith Hackett

Keith Hackett is a proud Sheffield Man, Ex FIFA Referee, Former Head of the PGMOL, Author, FA Cup Referee and a Gentleman who knows the laws of the beautiful game in side and out. He is counted amongst the top 100 referees of all time.