Liverpool, UK. 21st Feb, 2023. UEFA Champions League round of 16 match Liverpool vs Real Madrid at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Tuesday February 21, 2023. Modric celebrates win 900/

14 greats applauded by opposition fans: Modric, Ronaldinho, Messi…

It takes something special for a supporter to applaud a great performance or piece of skill against their team – but Chelsea and Manchester United fans are among those to have done it.

It takes a great level of respect for a supporter to set aside their disappointment of defeat or conceding a goal to appreciate an opposition player.

However, when it comes to the world’s best, it is often a real joy to sit back and admire certain footballers, and these great players deserve all the credit they get.

Karim Benzema & Luka Modric

Real Madrid have been the thorn in Liverpool’s side in recent years. They’ve bested Jurgen Klopp’s Reds in two Champions League finals and knocked them out on one other occasion.

That looks set to continue with Carlo Ancelotti’s men taking back a 5-2 first-leg lead back to the Bernabeu.

They went two goals behind early on, but yet another midfield masterclass from a 37-year-old Luka Modric inspired an incredible comeback at Anfield. Karim Benzema scored twice in the rout, becoming the all-time top goalscorer against Liverpool in European competition.

The home fans couldn’t help but raise their hands in respect for two of the all-time greats that have put them to the sword when they were substituted off in the late stages.

Franck Ribery

When Ribery left Bayern Munich after 12 years, many people might have assumed he was finished as a top-level footballer as a 36-year-old.

However, rather than go for one last payday in a lesser league, Ribery opted to join Fiorentina in Serie A and promptly claimed both a goal and an assist in his first three appearances.

Then, in his fourth, he scored the third goal in a 3-1 win for La Viola at the San Siro and tormented Milan to such an extent throughout that he received a standing ovation from all four sides of the stadium when he departed the field with a minute left.

As the old saying goes, class is permanent.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo received applause from the entirety of the Juventus Stadium after netting his utterly stunning bicycle kick in Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final win in 2018.

“When I was a kid, I liked Juventus and the fact they applauded me will stay with me,” he said after the game.

Steven Gerrard

There was always animosity between Gerrard and Chelsea supporters after the Liverpool legend famously turned down a move to Stamford Bridge on a number of occasions.

But having announced his decision to leave the club in 2015, one of his last games in a Liverpool shirt was away at Chelsea. Gerrard equalised and put in a fantastic performance before being substituted and receiving applause from all four stands, and home manager Jose Mourinho.

However, he wasn’t too quick to praise them afterwards, saying: “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.”


Real Madrid may have a fierce rivalry with Barcelona, but when Ronaldinho tore the Bernabeu apart in 2005, the home crowd showed brilliant respect by coming together to applaud one of the game’s true greats.

Barcelona's Ronaldinho takes on Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

READ: A forensic analysis of the night Real fans stood to applaud Ronaldinho

Thierry Henry

Freddie Ljungberg’s hat-trick sank Sunderland on the final day of the 2002-03 season, but it was Henry who stole the headlines.

With the Golden Boot in sight, he selflessly set up his team-mate for all three, adding one of his own as well before earning an ovation from the doomed supporters.

Diego Maradona

Real Madrid supporters are obviously gracious enough to accept a piece of brilliance even when it is against them.

Maradona ran through on goal at the Bernabeu in 1983, and after rounding the goalkeeper, he had the audacity to dribble around Juan Jose on the goal-line before scoring and earning applause from the home supporters.

Johan Cruyff

Way back in 1978, Aston Villa were on only their second foray into European football and welcomed Barcelona for a quarter-final in front of nearly 50,000 at Villa Park.

Cruyff scored a stunning solo goal and was substituted off at 2-0, receiving a standing ovation from the half of Birmingham who had turned out to watch him play.

Incredibly, Villa pulled off a comeback and drew the first leg 2-2. At Camp Nou, they went a man down before incredibly going one up, only for Barca’s class to eventually show and see them edge through to the semis.

Alessandro Del Piero

The Bernabeu was at it again in a reverse of Juve fans’ show of appreciation to Ronaldo.

Scoring with two long-range strikes, Del Piero handed the away side victory and was substituted to a great reception from every supporter in the stadium.

Lionel Messi

Staying at the Bernabeu, Barcelona defeated their old rivals by six goals to two, with a fresh-faced Messi scoring twice and assisting two more.

The youngster showed what was to come, and warned Real Madrid of a period he would dominate, but their supporters were not afraid to show their appreciation for one of the greatest ever.


One of the greatest individual performances ever saw Ronaldo net a hat-trick as Real defeated Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final.

Alex Ferguson said: “You can’t legislate for someone who produces moments like that.”

You know it’s good when even the United crowd applauded.

READ: A forensic analysis of Ronaldo’s hat-trick vs Manchester United in 2003

Dennis Bergkamp

Also in 2003, a phenomenal display from Arsenal saw Bergkamp earn an ovation from Manchester City supporters at Maine Road.

He only scored one on the day but received warm applause from all four stands when making way in the second half, with City fans clearly recognising they had been beaten by the Premier League’s outstanding team at the time.

Manager Kevin Keegan said: “Any other club in the world, boos would have been ringing in our ears. I suppose you could say we’ve got the crowd, we just haven’t got the players.”

Lionel Messi, again

Even by Messi’s standards, the forward took the biscuit with his hat-trick against Real Betis in 2019, which featured a sublime free-kick and outrageous chip over goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

After the latter, which completed his hat-trick, Betis fans couldn’t help but stand and applaud the little magician, with fellow players Clement Lenglet and Marc Barta holding their heads in disbelief.

“I don’t remember [a rival player being applauded like that] and I’m very grateful with the reaction of the fans,” Messi told Movistar Partidazo. “Every time we come to this stadium, they treat us really well.”

Andres Iniesta

Iniesta was applauded off the pitch at the Bernabeu after a sublime performance in 2015, but he received applause from Barca’s Catalan rivals Espanyol every time he played against them.

Why? Not only did he score the goal which won Spain the World Cup in 2010, he dedicated it to former Espanyol player Dani Jarque, who had died of a heart attack when only 26.

Despite the fierce rivalry, Espanyol fans displayed their gratitude in every game until Iniesta left for Japan.

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