With an estimated four billion football fans around the world, footballers are celebrities in their own right. Our obsession with football has propelled many players to fame on social media, where they are followed by millions and ‘liked’ by many. However, as key players on the football field also become influencer superstars, the question remains: which footballer has the greatest social media influence of all?
Eager to find out, we conducted an index study across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to determine which footballer has the greatest social influence. To do this, we compiled a list of the most renowned and popular football players and analysed social media engagement factors across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for each to discover which players possessed the most social media power of all.
The most influential footballers on social media overall
Across the various social media platforms combined, Cristiano Ronaldo ranked as the most influential footballer, with an overall score of 9.85 out of 10. In fact, the world-renowned forward placed as the most influential footballer across all platforms individually, too. Boasting an impressive 293,848,644 Instagram followers and 92,200,000 Twitter followers alongside other metrics, Ronaldo’s social media influence is extremely impressive.
French footballer Karin Benzema, who currently plays for Spanish power club Real Madrid, ranked as the second most influential footballer across the social media platforms combined, with an overall score of 8.71 out of 10 – 4.28 of which was awarded for Instagram metrics, 3.14 for Facebook metrics and 1.29 for Twitter metrics. Benzema placed as the fourth most influential player on Instagram, the second most influential on Facebook and the ninth most influential on Twitter.
Brazilian footballer Neymar was revealed to be the third most influential footballer according to our study, achieving an overall combined platform score of 8.08 out of 10. Neymar, who currently plays for PSG, was the second most influential player on Twitter, second only to Ronaldo. In fact, on Twitter, Neymar had an impressive following of 53,700,000 accounts.
Sergio Ramos was awarded the title of the fourth most influential footballer on social media, with a hefty overall score across platforms of 8.03 out of 10. In particular, Sergio Ramos boasted a sizable Twitter following of 18,454,561, had 25,781,300 page likes on Facebook and 44,280,004 Instagram followers, leading him to rank among the 10 most influential footballers on each platform.
Scoring 7.99 out of 10, Lionel Messi was revealed to be the fifth most influential footballer on social media overall. Despite boasting a strong social media following and engagement across Instagram and Facebook, Messi was absent from Twitter, which caused the Argentinian footballer to miss out on a higher place in our study.
The most influential footballers on Instagram
When assessing the influence possessed by footballers on Instagram in particular, we analysed the number of followers on the platform along with average likes and comments awarded by their 20 most recent posts.
Cristiano Ronaldo placed as the most influential overall, with the Juventus FC forward amassing 293,848,664 followers on Instagram, and racking up 5,125,410 likes and 42,129 comments on average per post.
Interestingly, Lionel Messi received more than double the number of comments on average per post on Instagram, with 101,949. This was accompanied by 4,027,230 likes on average per post, and a staggering total of 213,754,060 followers on the popular photo-sharing platform.
Meanwhile, PSG’s Kylian Mbappé placed as the third most influential footballer on Instagram alone. On the platform, he boasts 51,518,394 followers and receives an average of 1,831,620 likes and 9,931 comments per post – considerably fewer than the number of comments shared on Messi and Ronaldo’s posts, but nonetheless impressive.
Interestingly, former English footballer David Beckham also placed among the five most influential footballers on Instagram, despite retiring some years ago. On the platform, Beckham boasts a following of over 66 million accounts and his posts receive an average number of 978,035 likes and 8,817 comments each.
Other featured players in the top 10 most influential footballers on Instagram include Mohamed Salah and Sergio Agüero, who both played in the Premier League last season. Agüero, who ended his stint at Manchester City this year, flaunted an Instagram following of 17,398,178 accounts, whilst Mohamed Salah boasted a higher following on Instagram, of 44,280,004 accounts.
The most influential footballers on Facebook
When it came to Facebook, we analysed platform data such as page likes and ‘Talking About This’ mentions, which account for subsequent likes, comments and reshares (when a fan shares a page’s post).
With considerably more page likes than any other player, Ronaldo once again ranked as the most influential footballer, but this time on social platform Facebook. Ronaldo’s Facebook page had 148,570,804 likes in total, and 1,691,978 ‘Talking About This’ mentions.
Karim Benzema placed as the second most influential football star on Facebook, with 28,457,080 page likes and 2,099,472 ‘Talking About This’ mentions. Benzema’s social media influence was relatively consistent across all three platforms, having ranked as the fourth most influential on Instagram and the ninth most influential on Twitter.
With the second highest number of page likes of any footballer studied (101,870,672), Lionel Messi was revealed to be the third most influential footballer on Facebook. Although he had more page likes than Benzema who proved more influential overall, he did have considerably fewer ‘Talking About This’ mentions, with 1,240,436.
Neymar, David Beckham and Antoine Griezmann all followed respectively.
The most influential footballers on Twitter
Lastly, when it came to Twitter, the most influential footballers were ranked based on their number of followers, and once again Ronaldo came out on top, with a large following of 92,200,000 accounts.
Neymar was revealed to be the second most followed footballer studied on Twitter, with a following of 53,700,000 accounts, leading him to be crowned the second most influential footballer on the platform where Tweets are shared.
With over 25 million Twitter followers in total, Andrés Iniesta placed as the third most influential footballer on the platform, followed by Gareth Bale who boasted a Twitter following of 18,668,771.
With just over 200,000 followers fewer than Bale, Sergio Ramos was revealed to be the fourth most influential footballer on Twitter. At the time of our study, Ramos had a following of 18,454,561 accounts.
Goalkeeper David de Gea also featured among the most influential footballers on Twitter with over 13 million followers, making him the eighth most influential overall.
- FootballBreak.co.uk explored hundreds of the best and most popular football players of the 21st Century identifying footballers that were referred to more than once.
– The articles and lists used include: Liverpool FC HQ, Sporting Free, Lineups, Radio Times, Bleacher Report, Ranker, SportBible, My Football Facts, and Football Critic.
– Only those with active social accounts were included.
– Only the top 30 names on the Ranker list were used.
– A finalised seeding list of 36 names were collated.
* Diego Maradona and Jean-Marc Bosman were excluded from the final seeding list due to inactivity on social accounts.
- Next, SocialBlade.com was used to collect the number of followers and engagement rate on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages for each footballer.
– Sadio Mane and Luka Modric’s data was collected on Speakrj.com as it was unavailable on SocialBlade and uses the same method of calculating average engagement.
– For every social platform that was not used by the footballer, the value 0 was given.
– Average likes and comments are calculated over the most recent 20 posts.
- An index score was then created from each social indicator using the Percentrank function and averaged across each of the 6 variables to generate an index score. Each individual score was then totalled for the index score (scored out of 10).
- The total index scores were then ranked to determine just exactly which footballers are the most influential on social media.
- All data was collected on June 1st 2021 and subject to change.