Howard Webb, England's leading referee, has endorsed Uefa's decision to appoint the Hungarian Viktor Kassai to take charge of Saturday's Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley. Kassai, 35, will supplant Webb as the youngest referee for such a match.
Kassai is highly regarded within refereeing and has a reputation for letting the game flow. He refereed the World Cup semi-final between Spain and Germany last summer and has taken charge of four Champions League matches this season, including United's 1-0 win in Valencia in the group stages.
Webb, who was 38 when he refereed last season's Champions League final, told the Guardian: "I'm thrilled for Viktor. He's a young guy but he's got a lot of experience. He had a terrific World Cup, taking charge of a semi-final, so he's proved himself to be an excellent referee on the biggest of stages. He's also performed well this season in the Champions League, so his appointment is recognition of his skills as an official and he will be full of confidence coming into the match."
Kassai, who speaks fluent English and German but not Spanish, has been a Fifa referee since 2003. He has officiated at more than 60 Uefa matches and he took charge of the 2008 Olympic final. He impressed at the World Cup finals in South Africa, although he was possibly too lenient in the semi-final, when he did not book anyone, allowing Sergio Ramos to escape unpunished for a clumsy challenge on Germany's Mesut Ozil that could have been seen as a red card offence.
Kassai's fondness for keeping his cards in his pocket was evident again at Wembley in September, when he refereed England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria. Carlos Vela was not so fortunate a couple of months later, when Kassai booked him for diving in the closing stages of Arsenal's Champions League defeat by Braga.
Asked whether he had advice for Kassai, Webb said: "Wembley will be a terrific occasion, with two sets of very passionate fans. I hope he gets a moment to enjoy the occasion, because it is a privilege to take charge of matches like this. Equally, though, you can't get drawn into the magnitude of it and I'm sure he will approach it like every other Champions League game he's done this season. One thing I can say is that, without doubt, he'll look back at this as one of the highlights of his career."