Football Features

Standing ovations: Six players who earned respect of opposition fans

By Sam Long

Published: 22:30, 17 March 2019 | Updated: 12:19, 19 March 2019

When a member of the opposition scores against your team, the majority of fans don’t tend to enjoy it. But sometimes things go down a little differently.

Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the opposition and admit that you’ve seen something special. Respect in football can be hard to come by but supporters are occasionally willing to put rivalries aside and appreciate greatness.

Real recognise real and all that. Of course, giving a standing ovation to a rival player is something of a rarity. But there have been plenty of moments of appreciation over the years and AskFans has dug through the archives to revisit a few of the most memorable….

Ronaldinho vs Real Madrid (2005)

The Bernabeu is an unforgiving place, but even the most ardent of Los Blancos fans had to take their hats off to Ronaldinho.

The Brazilian produced a vintage display – including two goals – to help Barca secure a 3-0 victory over their rivals before receiving the approval of the home crowd.

The Galácticos were powerless to prevent Ronaldinho running riot and he left with a big smile on his face. As usual.

Alessandro Del Piero vs Real Madrid (2008)

Del Piero’s greatest-ever display went down a treat with the locals.

The Italian curled home a delighted left-footed effort before adding another courtesy of a trademark free-kick to give his side a 2-0 victory.

Madrid knew they were beaten and supporters clapped Del Piero off when he was substituted just seconds before the final whistle.

Steven Gerrard vs Chelsea (2015)

Gerrard and Chelsea fans simply did not get on. The midfielder was berated by Blues supporters throughout his career and there was little love lost between the pair.

The midfielder scored at Stamford Bridge on his penultimate appearance for Liverpool, which was enough to get bums off seats as he left the pitch.

He told the BBC: “I’m not going to get drawn into wishing Chelsea fans well. It was nice of them to turn up for once today.”

Nice little dig, there.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Juventus (2018)

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a ridiculous overhead kick against Juventus last season.

Ridiculous doesn’t really do it justice. Quite how the Real Madrid star managed to jump so high defied physics. Gianluigi Buffon had absolutely no chance.

As Ronaldo wheeled away to bask in his latest achievement, the home crowd stood and applauded the Portuguese forward.

Could that mutual respect have had a bearing on Ronnie’s decision to join the Bianconeri? You’d like to think so.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Liverpool (2014)

It’s that man again. Ronaldo pitched up at Anfield as public enemy number one, having been Manchester United’s main man for six years.

His every touch was booed by the Anfield crowd early on but, after inspiring his team to a 3-0 victory, he had won plenty of them over.

Sometime you just have to admit that you’ve lost to the better man. Not matter how arrogant he is.

Lionel Messi vs Atletico Madrid (2009)

Messi is no stranger to being appreciated by rival fans. After all, we’re fortunate to be on the planet at the same time as him.

The Barca talisman scored a hat-trick to help fire his side to a 3-1 King’s Cup victory over Atletico and the home fans were evidently impressed.

Winning over the Vincente Calderon is no mean feat, but this is Messi we’re talking about.

Lionel Messi vs Real Betis (2019)

As we all know by now, nobody can pull your pants down on a football pitch quite like Messi.

The 31-year-old scored a hat-trick as Betis were powerless to prevent Messi’s ridiculous free kick, sublime clipped finish and tidy toe poke.

However, the home fans at the Benito Villamarín were not left spitting feathers. Far from it.

They offered Messi a warm round of applause and the little magician told Movistar (via ESPN): “I don’t ever remember a night like this [being applauded by rival supporters].

“I’m really grateful for the way the fans responded.”

Ronaldo vs Manchester United (2003)

Perhaps the most famous ovation on our list, Ronaldo ended United’s hopes of playing a Champions League final on home turf in style.

The Red Devils won 4-3 on the night but Ronaldo’s hat-trick grabbed the headlines as Madrid went through courtesy of a 6-5 aggregate victory.

Old Trafford knew it had seen something special and reacted accordingly. O Fenômeno was some player.