As arguably the biggest worldwide sport of them all, the best footballers on the planet are usually amongst the world’s most popular athletes, too. The likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane have legions of fans from all continents, and are largely popular with fans of many different clubs.
The same can’t be said for a handful of players, though, who are treated as heroes by the supporters of their own clubs – but despised by rivals for a myriad of reasons. The following 5 players have a “love-to-hate” quality that’s simply rare in any sport – and can often be found acting as football’s pantomime villains.
Here are 5 players who are loved by their fans – but hated by their rivals.
#1 Sergio Ramos
The fact that Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos’s red card for Los Blancos in their recent Champions League loss to Manchester City was the 26th of his career probably says a lot about exactly why he’s greatly disliked by fans of rival teams.
Simply put, while Ramos is a tremendous player – marshalling his side from the centre of defence with excellent defensive instincts while also providing a serious goal threat – he’s also renowned for making a nuisance of himself in almost every possible way on the pitch.
It’s nearly impossible to catalogue all of the moments that Ramos has made himself despised by opposing fans – there are simply too many to mention – but some of his stand-out incidents would include the way in which he injured Liverpool’s Mo Salah in the 2018 Champions League final with a challenge that appeared to come straight out of the UFC, a stamp on the chest of Malaga player Eliseu back in 2008-09, numerous horrible challenges on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and the unsavoury way in which he purposely earned a red card in order to sit out a Champions League dead rubber back in 2010.
Ramos is equally disliked when playing for his national team; despite the fact that he’s never earned a red card in the colours of Spain, he has earned the most yellow cards for La Roja with a total of 24 and uses his expertise of football’s dark arts to the maximum.
A great example of how much opposing fans despise him – even at international level – came after England’s 2-3 win over Spain in 2018. The victory was arguably the Three Lions’ best performance in nearly 20 years, and yet a post-match poll by Sky Sports to decide England fans’ favourite moment of the match was won not by any of their goals – but by Eric Dier’s crunching tackle on Ramos in the early part of the game!