Premier League referee Michael Oliver and former official Howard Webb have both identified former Liverpool star Craig Bellamy as the most challenging player to referee during their careers. Despite Bellamy’s successful stints with top clubs such as Manchester City, Newcastle, and Liverpool, his on-field behavior made him notorious for his confrontational style.
Oliver shared his experiences with The Athletic in 2021, revealing that Bellamy’s confrontational nature and constant arguments on the pitch made him incredibly difficult to officiate. Oliver noted that teams facing difficulties or not accustomed to losing tend to be more challenging, and Bellamy, in particular, stood out for his relentless disputing of decisions.
Reflecting on Bellamy, Oliver stated, “I watched him for two or three years — I’m a Newcastle fan and you wanted him in your team because he was a winner. But he was a nightmare to referee because he would argue about everything. If you told him it was black, he’d tell you it was white.”
Howard Webb, a former Premier League referee and current head of the PGMOL, echoed Oliver’s sentiments, emphasizing that Bellamy gave him the most grief during his officiating career. Webb acknowledged Bellamy’s prowess as a footballer and a pleasant individual off the pitch but highlighted the challenges of dealing with his outspoken and opinionated demeanor during matches.
Webb mentioned, “The player that gave me the most grief would have to be Craig Bellamy,” adding, “I struggled to build any kind of rapport with Craig. He might have been a great footballer and a lovely lad off the pitch, but on it, he was quick to share his views and didn’t really listen to yours.”
Bellamy retired from playing in 2014 and transitioned to coaching, currently working with Belgian team Anderlecht alongside former teammate Vincent Kompany. His coaching journey has also seen him collaborating with Kompany at Burnley, where they continue to contribute to the footballing community.