MARK CLATTENBURG EXCLUSIVE: Ex-Premier League ref set to make stunning return to England

Express Sport understands talks are underway over a deal which would bring one of the world’s most respected officials back to the country.

It is at this stage unclear as to which competition Clattenburg is being lined up to referee.

But sources close to the situation claim Clattenburg is open to returning to England to ref – 12 months after he left the country to work for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).

In his new role as the country’s Head of Refereeing, Clattenburg has combined taking charge of matches with helping to improve the standard of officials in the country.

But things are far different in Saudi than they are in England.

The standard of football is a world away from what it is in England and he last month had to call a stop to Saudi King’s cup clash in extra time when Adhaan was recited in mosques surrounding the stadium.

There is no suggestion that Clattenburg, 42, will leave the well-paid job he has in Saudi Arabia permanently.

But the option remains for him to appear at one-off matches or longer competitions.

Clattenburg took charge of 292 Premier League matches with his last coming in April 2017 when West Brom played Leicester.

He officiated the men’s gold medal match between Brazil and Mexico at the London 2012 Olympic Games and then made history four years later when he became the first man to take charge of the FA Cup, Champions League and UEFA European Championship finals in the same year.

Clattenburg hit the headlines last month when he made the astonishing claim that he allowed Tottenham to “self-destruct” in the infamous Battle of the Bridge in 2016.

Clattenburg took charge of Spurs’ bad-tempered 2-2 draw at Chelsea in May 2016, which saw Mauricio Pochettino’s team concede the crown to Leicester.

Needing a win to stay in the race, Tottenham lost a 2-0 lead at Stamford Bridge as the referee booked nine of their players. He claimed he went into the match with a “game plan” to avoid any negative I didn’t want blame headlines and blame for Spurs losing the title.

Clattenburg told NBC’s Men in Blazers podcast: “I allowed Spurs to self-destruct so all the media went, for losing the title ‘Tottenham lost the title’.

“If I had sent three players off from Tottenham, what are the headlines? ‘Clattenburg cost Tottenham the title’. It was pure theatre that Tottenham self-destructed against Chelsea and Leicester won the title.

“I certainly benefited the game by my style of refereeing. Some referees would have played by the book. Tottenham would have been down to seven or eight players and probably lost and they would’ve been looking for an excuse. “But I didn’t give them an excuse, because my game plan was: let them lose the title.”