Mark Clattenburg may have jeopardised his chance to referee at the 2018 World Cup by making a shock move to Saudi Arabia, fears Howard Webb.
After an impressive season which included taking control of the Champions League, FA Cup and Euro 2016 finals, Clattenburg would have been fancied to be a contender for the decider in Russia.
But instead he has replaced Webb as Head of Refereeing for the Saudi Arabia Football Federation.
Webb isn’t sure how his decision to take on the management role, while still refereeing in the Middle East, will effect his prospects for Russia.
And he didn’t expect him to make the move mid-season.
“I was kind of surprised, to be honest,” says Webb tells espnfc.co.uk .
“Mark’s on the shortlist for the World Cup and I’m not sure, even now, how that will play out, because I do know that he’s hoping to continue doing some refereeing out there in Saudi Arabia, and for now he’s continuing the English Premier League.”
While Clattenburg was expected to make an immediate departure he took charge of Everton vs Burnley at the weekend as he serves a three-month notice period.
“I am kind of surprised he would go before the World Cup knowing that it could, I guess, jeopardize his World Cup place, but also understanding that he had an amazing year last year, the Champions League final in Milan, also went to Paris and refereed the Euro final. Wonderful, wonderful career,” Webb continues.
“He probably got similar feelings that I’ve got – he’s been around a long time. Mark and I reached the Premier League more or less at the same time together. He’s had a wonderful career. Like me he’s had ups and downs, but ultimately he’s a guy who can look back on an amazing career with some wonderful achievements. Very talented referee, and the Premier League will miss him when he moves on.
“I guess he felt that he wanted a new challenge, that he wanted to move on to something new in the way that I did and go out at the very top. And I wish him well in Saudi Arabia.”