Conor McGregor sent his support to Cristiano Ronaldo after Portugal’s win against Slovenia

18 Times Footballers Have Broken Down in Tears on the Pitch


18 Times Footballers Have Broken Down in Tears on the Pitch

The sight of Cristiano Ronaldo in floods of tears during Portugal’s Euro 2024 Round of 16 clash shocked fans. Usually ice-cold in the biggest games, his failure to beat Slovenia’s Jan Oblak from 12 yards left the 39-year-old crestfallen.

Portugal were still firmly in the contest and had another 15 minutes of extra-time left to play. But Ronaldo, to his immense credit, regained his composure and made amends in the penalty shootout with a typically brilliant spot-kick into the bottom corner of the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo cries

It was a moment that summed up Ronaldo’s resilience and character. It’s hard to think of many other footballers who could have played on and then scored an unstoppable penalty after being so visibly distraught.

Ronaldo isn’t the first footballer to cry on the pitch – indeed, it’s not even the first time in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s career that tears have fallen from his eyes during a match – and he certainly won’t be the last. It goes without saying that crying on the pitch – or off it, for that matter – is nothing for anybody to be ashamed of.

We’ve taken a look back at some of the most famous moments where players have let it all out on the pitch. While football is famously described as the ‘beautiful game’, the sport can also be extremely cruel at times.

1Paul Gascoigne

The moment a nation fell in love with ‘Gazza’

Gazza tears

One of the most famous examples of a player crying on a football pitch, Paul Gascoigne began to cry after receiving a yellow card in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals against West Germany.

This was the agonising moment the then-gifted 23-year-old realised he wouldn’t be able to play in the final if England got there (which, of course, they didn’t). It was also the moment the country fell in love with the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Gazza’. His life would never be the same from this day onwards.

2John Terry

Slip in Moscow still haunts him now

John Terry cries

Many people often feel sorry for the footballer in question crying, but this wasn’t the case for poor old John Terry, who famously got emotional after missing a crucial penalty for Chelsea against Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final. It would prove to be the most difficult moment of his career – and something that still affects him to this day.

“I often still wake up, literally the middle of the night and it’s there. Champions League final, missing the penalty,” he told snooker legend Stephen Hendry in 2023, per talkSPORT. “You have so many successes, but it’s strange how you remember that, but more importantly how everybody else remembers it as well, and reminds you.”

Thierry Henry

Affected by Marc-Vivien Foe’s tragic death

Thierry Henry

Marc-Vivien Foe tragically passed away after collapsing on the pitch during Cameroon’s 2003 Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia. Foe’s untimely death left the whole football community absolutely devastated, including Thierry Henry, who was seen in tears before the start of the other semi-final between France and Turkey.

Henry scored in the game and dedicated his goal to Foe, who’d passed away just hours earlier. “Everyone is shocked,” the Arsenal legend told reporters at the time. “I played against him a few times in France and in England. The first goal was for him.”

4Cristiano Ronaldo

Crestfallen after Euro 2004 final

Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004

Cristiano Ronaldo was just 19 years old during the 2004 European Championships, which Portugal hosted. And when his team lost the final against the unfancied Greece in one of the biggest shocks in recent international football history, the young Manchester United starlet was left utterly bereft.

It’s nothing short of remarkable that, two full decades later, Ronaldo remains just as passionate about football and hungry to win as he was as a teenager with the world at his feet. The legendary forward truly is a complete one-off in every sense.

5David Seaman

Tears after Ronaldinho lobbed him

David Seaman crying

There can’t be many worse feelings as a footballer than letting your country down in a World Cup match. It’s harsh to blame David Seaman for England’s exit at the 2002 World Cup, but he will always be remembered for allowing *that* Ronaldinho free-kick to sail over his head and into the back of the net.

Shortly after the referee blew the full-time whistle at Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka, Seaman cut a distraught figure on the pitch and was consoled by his supportive teammates, including David Beckham. It would prove to be the beginning of the end for the goalkeeper’s international career.

6Son Heung-min

Devastated after Andre Gomes’ injury

Son Heung-min

It was difficult to watch Son Heung-min after the Tottenham forward saw the extent of Andre Gomes’s injury during the Premier League clash against Everton back in 2019. The South Korea international was left horrified after seeing Gomes’s fractured ankle – and he struggled to hold back the tears.

The emotional Son, who was then shown a red card by referee Martin Atkinson for the challenge which inadvertently led to Gomes’s sickening injury, sent his injured opponent a text message afterwards. “I just texted him to say best wishes to you, I’m really sorry for you, your family and your team-mates,” the forward told reporters at the time. “He texted me back but I haven’t read it yet. I still feel really bad. Football is a sport where something [like this] can happen, [but] nobody wants to see this. I’m so sad this happened and that I was involved.”

7Carsten Jancker

Broken after 1999 Champions League final

Carsten Jancker

Bayern Munich’s players were left utterly shocked and devastated after Manchester United completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history at the end of the 1999 final at Camp Nou. Sammy Kuffour was seen punching the ground in frustration, while 6ft 4in striker Carsten Jancker was seen in floods of tears.

It was a fairytale day in Man Utd’s history as they completed a historic treble triumph, but it’s fair to say that May 26, 1999 is remembered very differently by everybody associated with the German giants – including Jancker.


Thrilled after winning his first World Cup


Pele cemented his place in football folklore by winning the 1958 World Cup with Brazil at the tender age of 17. The teenage sensation was photographed crying on the shoulder of Didi as teammates Gilmar and Orlando congratulated him on a stunning performance.

The South American would go on to cement his status as football’s most iconic name. Only the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona compare to the Brazilian on the pantheon of all-time footballing greats.


Tears at 2018 World Cup


After drawing 1-1 against Switzerland in their opening 2018 World Cup match, Brazil could ill-afford to slip up against Costa Rica in their second game. However, the scores were still level at 0-0 after 90 minutes. Brazil were getting anxious, but goals from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar sealed all three points for the Selecao.

It all got a bit much for Neymar, who broke down in tears. In fairness, the flamboyant superstar was carrying the weight of a nation – and an expectant nation at that – on his shoulders at the time.

10Jack Wilshere

Emotional after shock League Cup defeat

Jack Wilshere crying

Arsenal were the overwhelming favourites to win the 2011 Carling Cup final against Birmingham City – but they ended up losing 2-1 after a calamitous 89th-minute mix-up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny gifted Obafemi Martins the winning goal. Wilshere, just 19 at the time, was denied his first trophy as an Arsenal first-team player and he struggled to hold back the tears.

The English midfielder had the world at his feet at the time. Little did he know back then that his promising career would sadly be blighted by various injury problems.

11Gianluigi Buffon

Gutted after failure to qualify for World Cup

Gianluigi Buffon

In November 2017, Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals after losing to Sweden in the play-offs. This was the first World Cup the Azzurri had failed to reach since 1958. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy’s legendary goalkeeper, felt it more than most.

“I’m sorry that my final game coincided with us not qualifying for the World Cup,” he said after the match. “I am not sorry for myself but all of Italian football.” The iconic ‘keeper continued playing for Italy for a few more months before his final international appearance in 2018.

12Mario Balotelli

Unable to inspire Italy to glory at Euro 2012

Mario Balotelli

Another Italy international who shed tears on the pitch was Mario Balotelli following his country’s 4-0 defeat in the Euro 2012 final against the unstoppable Spain side that dominated football around the turn of the 2010s.

The enigmatic striker, who had scored three goals during the tournament, sobbed following the conclusion of what would turn out to be the biggest match of his career.

avid Beckham

The moment he said goodbye to football

David Beckham cries

David Beckham brought the curtain down on his illustrious career in 2013 – and was given the send-off he deserved by his Paris Saint-Germain teammates. He was subbed off with just over 10 minutes remaining in PSG’s match against Brest, and everything came to a standstill as the fans and players saluted one of the game’s greats.

Walking off the pitch for the final time is an incredibly emotional moment for any footballer, and Beckham’s tears showed how hard hanging up the boots can be for those players who truly love the game.

14Luis Suarez

Tears after ‘Crystanbul’

Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez

Liverpool knew they’d blown their chances of winning the 2013-14 title following their infamous 3-3 draw away at Crystal Palace – the match now referred to as ‘Crystanbul’. The Reds surrendered a three-goal lead at Selhurst Park and it all became too much for Luis Suarez, who sobbed with his shirt over his head as Steven Gerrard tried to get him away from the Sky Sports cameras.

Suarez would leave Liverpool months later, securing a dream move to Barcelona, where he reinforced his status as one of the world’s best footballers and struck up a long-lasting friendship with Lionel Messi.

15David Luiz

A nightmare day for every Brazilian

David Luiz

Brazil’s 7-1 defeat against Germany at the 2014 World Cup is one of the most shocking matches in football history. And David Luiz, who was unfortunately dreadful on the night, was distraught after the final whistle along with his teammates and millions of other Brazilians.

“They were better than us,” Luiz, who captained Brazil in the absence of Thiago Silva, told reporters. “It’s a very sad day but it’s also a day from which to learn. Apologies to all the Brazilian people. I just wanted to see my people smile.”

16Loris Karius

Cost Liverpool in Champions League final

Loris Karius

Loris Karius turned in one of the most disastrous individual performances in Champions League history during the 2018 final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. The German goalkeeper, who had gifted goals to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, was visibly heartbroken as he apologised to all the travelling Liverpool supporters in Kiev.

It was a career-threatening performance and a night that ultimately prevented Karius from fulfilling his potential. The 31-year-old is a free agent at the time of writing after leaving Newcastle United.

17Mohamed Salah

Injured in Champions League final

Mo Salah

And in the same Champions League final against Real Madrid in 2018, Mohamed Salah also left the pitch in tears after his Champions League final was prematurely ended following a controversial challenge by Sergio Ramos. The Liverpool striker feared in that moment that his dream of playing in the World Cup with Egypt was also over.

Salah would go on to lift the Champions League trophy with the Reds one year later following a 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Madrid.

18Lionel Messi

Devastated after Copa America failure

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi might be a World Cup winner these days, but arguably the greatest footballer ever suffered immense heartbreak with Argentina on numerous occasions in the years prior to 2022. Indeed, he was utterly inconsolable after the 2016 Copa America final. The former Barcelona forward missed the first of Argentina’s penalties in the shootout as Chile sealed a famous victory.

It was such a bitter pill for Messi to swallow that he ended up announcing his retirement from international football – before reversing the decision weeks later.


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