They stood, applauded Messi and joined with Barcelona fans in chanting his name, the Guardian reported.
Remarkably, it was not the Camp Nou but the Benito Villamarín Stadium in Seville that resounded to cries of “Messi! Messi! Messi!”
The Argentinian said after Barcelona’s 4-1 win that he had never received such a tribute from opposing supporters.
“No, I can’t remember that happening before,” he said after his 45th hat-trick for Barcelona, the other six coming for his country. “I am grateful, we are always treated well when we play here.”
Barcelona’s victory gave the Catalans a commanding 10-point lead in La Liga after Atlético Madrid’s lost at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Messi added another milestone to his list by surpassing Xavi Hernández with a club record 477th win.
“Leo’s match has been extraordinary,” Barcelona’s manager, Ernesto Valverde, told Movistar Partidazo.
“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.”
Messi struck with a powerful free-kick in the 17th minute. He added a second goal just before halftime from a pass by Luis Suárez, who scored a fantastic solo goal with a run from halfway midway through the second half.
Messi saved his best for late after the substitute Loren Morón had pulled one back. In the 85th minute, Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer used one touch of his left boot to float the ball from the left side of the box over the goalkeeper, Pau López. His shot grazed the underside of the bar before going in, triggering the outburst of praise from Betis fans.
“Almost every week [Messi] plays at such an amazing level,” said the Betis coach, Quique Setién. “He is able to singlehandedly decide games.”
Messi, who also hit the post just before the final whistle, has 39 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions this season and a potential treble in his sights. Barcelona has reached the final of the Copa del Rey and faces Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Champions League next month.