Fans act as the 12th man, often determining the outcome of matches with their unwavering support or by jeering and booing the opposing team. Stadiums such as Anfield, Old Trafford, Camp Nou, and the Santiago Bernabeu are notoriously difficult for away teams, particularly on big European nights.
However, there have been some outstanding performances by opposing players that have caused the home fans to stand and applaud. We look at five legendary football players who received a standing ovation from opposing fans.
Number 5: Steven Gerrard vs Chelsea
The Liverpool legend is without a doubt one of the greatest one-club men in world football history, having spent 17 seasons at his boyhood club.
Steven Gerrard requested a transfer to Chelsea in 2005. The transfer fell through, and the Englishman sworn devotion to the Reds. Gerrard’s best performances came against Chelsea, but his notorious slip cost Liverpool the title.
Gerrard and Chelsea fans had never been close, but that changed in his final game at Stamford Bridge.
True to form, Gerrard, equalized for Liverpool in a 1-1 draw with their archrivals.
When Gerrard exited the field, the home fans applauded alongside the Liverpool fans, much to everyone’s surprise. It was a stunning moment that exemplified the spirit of football in all its glory.
Number 4: Andres Iniesta vs Real Madrid
Andres Iniesta is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He was a key member of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team, which Sir Alex Ferguson described as “the best team I have ever faced.”
During his 16 seasons in Catalonia, the Spain and Barcelona legend was a constant challenge for Real Madrid. However, in one of Iniesta’s final El Clasico appearances, the Madridistas finally applauded his greatness. Even though he was nearing the end of his career in Spanish football in 2015, the midfield maestro was able to dictate and dominate play from the center of the field in that El Clasico match.
Iniesta orchestrated the majority of Barcelona’s goals on the night, capping it off with a stunning goal for a 4-0 victory. When he was substituted in the 77th minute, the Santiago Bernabeu crowd rose to their feet and gave a memorable standing ovation to a devoted servant of Spanish football.
Number 3: Ronaldinho vs Real Madrid
The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner is unquestionably one of the game’s all-time greats. Ronaldinho may have played his best football during his five-year stay at Camp Nou, and what made matters worse for Real Madrid fans were his exceptional performances against Los Blancos time and again. The Santiago Bernabeu crowd is notoriously difficult to please, but Ronaldinho accomplished the impossible.
The Brazilian put on one of the greatest one-man shows in modern football, scoring two stunning solo goals in the second half to help Barcelona win 3-0. Following his second goal of the evening, Real Madrid fans joined the Catalans in giving him a standing ovation.
Number 2: Ronaldo Nazario vs Manchester United
Ronaldo Nazario is widely regarded as one of the all-time great footballers. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were looking for vengeance in the home leg after Real Madrid defeated Manchester United 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the 2003 Champions League.
O Fenômeno scored a stunning hat-trick, and despite Manchester United winning the match 4-3 on aggregate, Real Madrid advanced 6-5 on the back of the Brazilian’s brilliance. The Old Trafford crowd held no grudges and applauded the magical display.
Number 1: Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Juventus
The Manchester United midfielder is one of the most successful Champions League players in history. In the 2017-18 season, one of his most spectacular performances in the tournament came against his former club Juventus.
The Italian champions had no answer for Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-scoring prowess in the quarter-final match against Real Madrid. The Portuguese superstar scored twice on the night to help Los Blancos to a 3-0 victory and a place in the semi-finals.
His second goal was spectacular. Ronaldo’s gravity-defying leap met a cross into the box. Gianluigi Buffon was taken aback by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s spectacular bicycle kick into the bottom left corner.
The Allianz Stadium crowd could only stand up and applaud the spectacular strike. Real Madrid went on to win their third consecutive Champions League title.