Players who got standing ovations from rival fans, and 5 legendary footballers who received standing ovations from rival Fans.
Fans have always been an indispensable part of football. Without them, much of the heat involved in battles is lost and the fierce nature of football is not really the same. We realized this the harshest way when fans were not allowed inside the stadiums during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was a world of change when they were allowed back in. The level of excitement while a game is being played or immediately after it draws to a close is simply unique when fans are involved.
In the stands, fans are always looking to either cheer their team on, jeer the opposition and put pressure on them. We see the worst of this when arch rivals square off against each other.
But there are players who have crossed that divide with their mesmerizing performances. Without further ado, let's take a look at seven times players got standing ovations from rival fans.
#7 Diego Maradona vs Real Madrid (1983)
Diego Maradona's time at Barcelona was mired in controversy. But he also scored a handful of breathtaking goals during his time at the Camp Nou. On June 26, 1983, Barcelona locked horns with eternal rivals Real Madrid in a League Cup game.
Maradona was released into a one-on-one situation with acres of space all around him. He rounded the goalkeeper but did not just simply slot the ball home from there. Instead, he dribbled around Juan Jose, who had somehow reached the goalline in a desperate attempt to stop Maradona, and then poked the ball home.
The Real Madrid supporters got on their feet to applaud the Argentinian maverick and his incredible show of skill.
#6 Steven Gerrard vs Chelsea (2015)
Steven Gerrard received a standing ovation from Chelsea fans on what was his final appearance at Stamford Bridge. The Liverpool captain had announced that he was leaving the club after the 2014-15 season.
He produced a great performance for Liverpool and equalized for his side before being taken off in the second half. Gerrard received a standing ovation from all corners of the stadium as Chelsea fans gave him a standing ovation.
But Gerrard was not ready to give Chelsea fans much credit for it. After all, he had produced the infamous 'slip' that cost Liverpool the Premier League in the season prior at Stamford Bridge itself. So, after the game, he said:
“Chelsea fans have had respect for a couple of seconds today but have slaughtered me all game.
“I’m not going to get drawn into wishing Chelsea fans well. It was nice of them to turn up for once today.”
#5 Andres Iniesta vs Real Madrid (2015)
Andres Iniesta is one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He was a vital cog in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side that dominated Europe towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
Iniesta was a thorn in Real Madrid's neck on a regular basis. However, Real Madrid fans have historically had no qualms about acknowledging greatness when they see it. In 2015, towards the latter stages of Iniesta's Barcelona career, he produced a magical performance against arch-rivals Real Madrid.
Iniesta pulled the strings from midfield to great effect in that game. He provided a brilliant assist for Neymar Jr. and scored a stunning goal as Barcelona won the game 4-0. The Santiago Bernabeu faithful acknowledged Iniesta's greatness by standing on their feet and applauding him.
#4 Ronaldo Nazario vs Manchester United (2003)
Ronaldo Nazario is one of the greatest strikers of all time. He produced one of the best individual performances that Old Trafford has witnessed in the modern era as Real Madrid beat Manchester United in the 2002-03 Champions League semi-final.
Sir Alex Ferguson's United side had conceded a 3-1 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu and were vying for revenge when the Spanish giants came visiting for the second leg. However, thanks to Ronaldo's brilliant hat-trick, Real Madrid held on and although they lost the game 4-3, they still advanced on aggregate (6-5).
The Theater of Dreams wasn't in the mood to ignore greatness, though, as they all got on their feet to applaud the Brazilian legend as he was substituted.
#3 Ronaldinho vs Real Madrid (2005)
Prime Ronaldinho was simply unstoppable. He shared a connection with the football that's unmatched and always played the game with a smile on his face. He is one of the very few Barcelona players to have been applauded by the Santiago Bernabeu faithful.
He scored two mesmerizing solo goals in the second half to fire Barcelona to a 3-0 win against Real Madrid in enemy territory. As he wheeled away in celebration of his second goal, the Real Madrid fans joined in and gave him a standing ovation.
#2 Lionel Messi vs Real Betis (2019)
Fans of various Spanish clubs have witnessed Lionel Messi work his magic and tear their teams into smithereens over the course of his stay at Barcelona. As such, Messi pulling off something incredible on the football pitch was hardly viewed as a special or one-off incident after a point.
Still, in 2019, as Messi completed his 51st career hat-trick with a lovely lobbed finish, the Real Betis fans at the Benito Villamarin Stadium stood up and applauded him. The goal was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award that year.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo vs Juventus (2018)
Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the best goals of his career in a crunch Champions League encounter with Juventus in the 2017-18 season. The Manchester United man is the highest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League.
Ronaldo's heroics helped Real Madrid secure a 3-0 win over Juventus in the first leg of the quarter-finals. It was his second goal that earned him a standing ovation from the Juventus fans.
Ronaldo met Dani Carvajal's cross into the box with a gravity-defying bicycle kick. The Bianconeri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was left rooted to the spot as the ball crashed into the top corner.
The Juventus fans got on their feet and everyone in the stadium applauded Ronaldo's genius.