Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final clash with Lyon is attracting controversy before a ball has even been kicked, with the Ligue 1 side being urged to complain about the choice of match referee.
The game is set to be officiated by 37-year-old Danny Makkelie, a Dutch former police officer who served as the video assistant referee for the 2018 World Cup final.
However, it has been suggested that there could be a conflict of interest, with the match having a potentially profound impact on Dutch giants Ajax.
If Man City win, Ajax will qualify automatically for next season’s Champions League group stage. If Lyon come out on top, however, Ajax will have to through a qualifying play-off, which could put them at risk of losing a huge sum of money if they then fail to qualify.
Former Dutch referee Dick Jol, who oversaw the 2001 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Valencia, thinks UEFA has put Makkelie in the firing line, potentially ramping up the pressure on his compatriot if there are big decisions to make.
Jol told De Telegraaf: “UEFA should not have put Danny Makkelie in this position. Never! Can you imagine the French newspapers? They are going to be dishing it out about him taking charge of the game before a ball has been kicked.
“Financially – and in a sporting way – there is so much at stake in this game. Makkelie is not to blame. I don't doubt his integrity for one second.
“He has a massive reputation with UEFA and he is making an international career in a great way, but what happens if he gives a penalty to City late in the game? If City win, fingers will get pointed at him.”
Should Lyon choose to make a complaint, it is possible the match referee could be changed, as has happened with a Dutch official before.
The 1994 Champions League final between AC Milan and Barcelona saw Dutchman John Blankenstein replaced by Philip Don, an English referee. It was said that Milan were unhappy Blankenstein had been put in charge with Barcelona managed by Johan Cruyff.
“Milan were very angry back in 1994 because of the presence of Cruyff and Koeman,” Jol said. “I would think that there is now the same mood in Lyon.”