He likes red cards: Profile on the Frenchman who will officiate the Europa League final.

It made the news last night: the French press announced yesterday that 38-year-old  referee Clement Turpin will officiate the Europa League final on May 26th in Gdansk, Poland. The Villarreal-Manchester United matchup will be mediated by someone with ample experience in Europe and in Ligue 1, but also by someone who, as of late, has been surrounded by some controversy.

Turpin is considered the #1 referee in France, but has been more of a protagonist in a few matches this season. Beyond some fairly uneventful ones, like the 0-1 Porto win over Chelsea in London, or the 2-0 Liverpool win over Red Bull Leipzig in the round of 16, Turpin made world soccer news earlier this month when he sent off four players with a direct red card after a fight broke out in the Lyon win at Monaco’s stadium for 2-3, a match that left the home team out of the title race.

The referee attracted criticism, fairly or unfairly, from both sides for days after the aforementioned match. A few days later, it happened again in Ligue 1 when he sent off Lens’ Clement Michelin in a match that ended with a 0-3 loss at home to Lille, fighting for the title at the moment. 

That loss, three days ago, hinders Lens’ push to qualify for European soccer next season. Goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca was clear in saying that the performance by the referee was “a scandal.”

Here’s what followed, and a very important piece of information for Villarreal for the final: The goalkeeper followed by stating that “The problem today in France is that when referees make a mistake here, they are criticized; and when they go see the camera they are judged and then criticized. So, referees here in France do not go see VAR.” Social media and journalists both said that Turpin had “Killed the match.”

Beyond the past month, Turpin has been a regular feature in Ligue 1 refereeing, especially in big matches, having mediated in matches for Paris Saint Germain more than any other team in the division. The Frenchman is also the only referee from his country officiating in Euro 2020.

If there is something we should highlight in looking at his refereeing history, is the amount of cards and penalties he has called. He seems to be trigger happy. 

See the Transfermarkt data below for his entire record as a referee. We have compared his record to two top referees like Lahoz and Taylor:

  • 1 red card every 3.5 matches (Mateu Lahoz: 4.4) (Anthony Taylor: 5.3)
  • 1 penalty called every 3 matches (Mateu Lahoz: 4.2) (Anthony Taylor: 3.2)
  • 3.2 yellow cards per match (Mateu Lahoz: 4.6) (Anthony Taylor: 3.4)

The trend is clear: The Spaniard and Englihsman like to show more yellow cards as a way to control the match, whereas the Frenchman seems to enjoy showing the red card more often.

If we isolate the Europa League for Turpin, things get a bit worse: 11 red cards in 22 matches, or a red card every 2 matches.  

Do as you wish with this information, but personally, I would warn the Villarreal players of two things: Do not give this referee a reason to even have to decide whether to give you a red card, and be careful inside the box, as he is more likely to call a penalty. Also, try to avoid getting into arguments with other players, as the wrong hand movement or a specially sensitive player who goes down for a mild shove or something of the sorts may end up getting you sent off.

In terms of specific history with Villarreal and Manchester, Turpin refereed the 0-1 Villarreal win over Sporting CP in Portugal (one red card, by the way), and mediated two matches with Manchester United; against FC Copenhague in 2020, and Sevilla in 2018.

Regardless of the record, with the amount of heat that Turpin has received in the past 11 days between these two matches, it is, at the very least, curious to see UEFA appoint the French referee to the Europa League final. Whatever happens, the decision has been made, and the Frenchmen will mediate between Villarreal and Manchester United.

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