Nicola Rizzoli may not be viewed in the same esteem as the world-renowned Pierluigi Collina, chief refereeing officer of Uefa, but the Italian selected to officiate Saturday's Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund has quickly become one of the most respected match officials in the world game.
Rizzoli is an architect by day, but it is his reputation as a referee that has been built most swiftly and soundly. He will be in charge of his first-ever Champions League final at Wembley at the weekend following his rise to prominence in recent years after he was a head referee in his first international tournament at Euro 2012 last year.
The 41-year-old has been active in Serie A since 2002 and became an international referee in 2007. Some six years later, Rizzoli has made it into Uefa's elite group of referees and has taken charge of several high-profile matches, including the Europa League final between Atletico Madrid and Fulham in Hamburg in 2010 and three high-profile games at Euro 2012.
|NICOLA RIZZOLI | Italy
In terms of style, Rizzoli tends to be a bit card-happy and indeed handed out an average of over five (5.16) cautions per match over 2012-13, one of the highest among referees in Serie A, while his straight red card count levels out at 0.24 per match.
It's therefore little surprise that the Mirandola-born official is viewed as one who likes to keep the match in check, while he is not afraid to engage in a discussion with players on the pitch who may disagree with his decisions.
Like any referee, however, Rizzoli divides opinion and throughout his career some of his decisions have been heavily criticised.
There was a curious incident in 2008 when his presence in the area seemed to put off Francesco Totti as he went to shoot on goal. The Roma skipper's resulting shot finishing well over the crossbar and the club icon swore to the official's face several times, but was not shown a red card.
|RIZZOLI'S SUPPORTING TEAM
|Assistant Ref 1||Renato Faverani|
|Assistant Ref 2||Andrea Stefani|
|Assistant Ref 3||Gianluca Cariolato (standby)|
|Additional Assistant||Gianluca Rocchi|
|Fourth official||Damir Skomina (Slovenia)|
In early 2012, then-Lazio coach Edy Reja stated that Rizzoli's officiating contributed to "double standards" regarding how big clubs and smaller clubs are treated in the Italian top flight.
His list of debatable calls also include the Milan league derby in May 2012 when he awarded three penalties during a 4-2 win for Inter, two of them seemingly incorrect, while he was also the centre of attention after this season's Coppa Italia game between Roma and Fiorentina, where he dished out nine yellow cards and dismissed three players.
Nonetheless, Rizzoli's handling of the 2010 Europa League final, two matches at the 2011 Club World Cup in Japan, and his performances at Euro 2012 have all been considered extremely competent displays. Additionally, in January 2012 he was chosen as the 'best referee' by the Italian Footballers' Association (AIC) at the Oscar del Calcio awards.
Bayern Munich will not be entirely pleased with the appointment of Rizzoli, though, as they will associate the Italian with Champions League heartbreak. They first met the 41-year-old in April 2010 when he was the man in charge of the Champions League encounter against Manchester United, with Bayern losing the match 3-2. Although the Bavarians did progress to the next round despite their loss, they would eventually end up losing the final 2-0 against Inter later that season.
Rizzoli refereed Bayern for a second time two years later when they met Basel in European club football's elite competition and a familiar scenario awaited FCB. The Swiss champions would win the match 1-0, but Bayern made it to the next round following a 7-0 home win in the second leg. Unfortunately for the Allianz Arena side, they would once more lose the final later that campaign.
Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, have no experience with Rizzoli directly, although some of their (and Bayern's) players featured in Germany's 6-1 World Cup qualification win over Republic of Ireland earlier this term. Marco Reus in particular will have enjoyed the Italian's presence as he netted twice to help his team to victory.
All in all, Rizzoli's tendency to reach for the book and frequently interrupt the game may frustrate certain players and fans alike, but his ability to remain calm and composed under pressure makes him a worthy choice for the Champions League final.