It was an astounding sight at the Benito Villamarin Stadium this weekend as the entire arena chanted the name of an opposition player who singlehandedly took down their home side.
Lionel Messi was greeted with a standing ovation after Barcelona’s 4-1 victory over Real Betis on Sunday. The Argentine collected his 51st career hattrick to extend the Blaugrana’s lead at the very top of the La Liga standings.
Ernesto Valverde hailed the 31-year-old’s performance and explained how his talent is beyond any rivalry in football. The Barcelona manager said, “Leo’s match has been extraordinary. He scored three goals and could have scored a fourth.”
“It’s evidence of the player he is. Despite the opposition being on the receiving end, we are all enjoying this era of his, which is unequalled. It’s significant that they cheer him, it’s an acknowledgement.”
The five-time Balon d’Or winner himself admitted that he has never received this kind of praise of from a rival fan in his entire playing career. The last time we noticed a Barcelona rival fanbase applauding one of their own players was when Ronaldinho visited the Santiago Bernabeu in 2005.
After the match, Messi said, “To be honest no, I don’t remember the opposition fans giving me an ovation for a goal. I’m very grateful for the response from the fans. We’re always treated very well when we come to this stadium. I’m very grateful and happy for the win, which was very important.”
See Also: Barcelona To Make Another Move For Griezmann: Le Equipe