2021 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Who is Antonio Mateu Lahoz, the 2021 Champions League final referee?
Mateu Lahoz, 44, is the first Spaniard to referee the UEFA Champions League final since Manuel Enrique Mejuto González in 2005.
Antonio Mateu Lahoz will become the fourth Spaniard to referee the biggest game in European club football when he takes charge of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea on Saturday.
The 44-year-old, whose appointment to the all-Premier League clash was confirmed earlier this month, will follow in the footsteps of José María Ortiz de Mendíbil, Manuel Díaz Vega and Manuel Enrique Mejuto González, who refereed the European Cup final in 1969, 1996 and 2005, respectively.
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Fellow Spaniards Pau Cebrián Devis and Roberto Díaz Pérez del Palomar will be Mateu Lahoz’s assistant referees, while two further compatriots, Carlos del Cerro Grande and Alejandro Hernández Hernández, will act as fourth official and video assistant referee, respectively.
LaLiga referee since 2008, named FIFA official three years later
Born on the east coast of Spain in Algímia d’Alfara, a town located some 40km from Valencia, Mateu Lahoz has been a Spanish top-flight referee since the 2008/09 season and was added to FIFA’s list of international referees in 2011.
His only previous experience of refereeing a single-game final came when he oversaw Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona in 2014, although he also served as the fourth official in Liverpool’s Champions League final win over Tottenham in 2019.
The 2014 Copa final was one of four Clásicos he has taken charge of in his career. But for injury, his tally would be five: he was originally appointed to Madrid’s 2-1 LaLiga win over Barça in April, but was replaced by Jesús Gil Manzano after suffering a muscle strain.
Sent Guardiola to stands last time he refereed Man City
Mateu Lahoz has refereed two games involving Chelsea - a 2015 loss to Porto and a 2014 win over Sporting CP, both in the Champions League - and has been the man in the middle for four City matches, all also played in Europe’s elite club competition: a 2016 victory over Dynamo Kyiv, wins against Napoli and Monaco in 2017, and a defeat to Liverpool in 2018.
That Liverpool clash, a quarter-final second leg in which a 2-1 reverse condemned City to a 5-1 aggregate defeat, saw Mateu Lahoz send Pep Guardiola off for dissent after the Sky Blues’ head coach was left incensed by a decision to disallow a Leroy Sané goal for offside.
Speaking post-match, Guardiola then accused Mateu Lahoz of overreacting to his complaints, branding his countryman as someone who “likes to be different”. “I said it was a goal,” Guardiola said. “I didn't insult him, I was polite, I was correct. But Mateu Lahoz is a special guy, he likes to be different, he likes to be special.”
Mateu Lahoz's style can distract from his effective officiating - ex-ref Iturralde González
Former AS editor Alfredo Relaño agrees that Mateu Lahoz, who is known for his talkative officiating style, “likes to stand out”. However, ex-referee Eduardo Iturralde González feels that Mateu Lahoz's distinctive on-field manner means he is often denied the credit he deserves for the quality of his performances. “He's a referee who has his own style […],” Iturralde González says. “Because of his style, people tend to focus much more on him than on the high percentage of decisions he gets right.”
An official who is also characterised by a willingness to let the play flow, Mateu Lahoz “tends to bide his time before showing the first yellow card” in high-profile games, Iturralde González says, adding: “He isn’t one of those referees who blows for fouls tactically just to show who’s in charge.”
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game in Porto, Guardiola said he was unconcerned by Mateu Lahoz’s selection as referee. “I could not care less,” the City boss told reporters on Monday. “I am so confident in my team. You cannot imagine how confident I am in my team and what we have to do."
Mateu Lahoz to referee at Euro 2020
After the Champions League final, Mateu Lahoz will be among the referees at this summer's European Championship, having previously officiated at the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.
His experience outside of Spanish football also includes an Armenian Premier League game between Pyunik Yerevan and Ararat Yerevan in 2019 and, in the same year, Saudi Professional League clashes involving Al Qadisiyah and Al Hazm, and Al Nassr and Al Faisaly.