Top most popular football players of all time
Social media is an essential part of everyone's routine these days. Almost all people are on social media, including some of the biggest football players who connect with their fans through different platforms.
With more than about 3.5 billion fans, football remains the most popular sport across the entire world. Many supporters invest hundreds of their own hard-earned cash just to see their favorite football players in action.
Footballers like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar are well-known for their talent and skills on the pitch as well as their huge fan bases off the pitch especially on social media.
Who has the most fans in 2020?
Check it out here as we present the most popular football players of all time. It should be mentioned that the amount of supporters a player has is no longer based on the number of jersey sales. Instead, social media channels are used to discover who the most popular football players of all time are.
It should also be noted that Twitter followers have been omitted from our findings because Lionel Messi doesn’t have an official account in an attempt to provide a more fair and accurate list for the readers.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus
Total followers: 450 million
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, born 5 February 1985, is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays as a forward for Serie A club Juventus and captains the Portugal national team.
Ronaldo is considered the best player in the world and is widely regarded as one of the most popular football players of all time. He has won five Ballons d'Or and four European Golden Shoes, both of which are records for a European player. He is among the most popular soccer players ever.
When it comes to social media presence, there's only one king in football and that is Cristiano Ronaldo, who leads second-placed Messi by almost 250 million.
He is the most liked person on Facebook, the most followed person on Instagram, and fifth-most followed person on Twitter, and also the only sports personality in the top 10.
Apart from being the most-followed person on Instagram, Ronaldo is also the most-followed person on Facebook with over 122 million subscribers to his Facebook page in June 2020. Only Facebook itself and tech conglomerate Samsung had more followers on the social network.
The 35-year-old has been at the pinnacle of world football for more than a decade and his association with some of the biggest names in the game - Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus have helped him build a fanbase that is about to cross the half a billion mark by the end of the year.
As per a report published last year he earns more money from his sponsorship deals on Instagram than in wages with Juventus. It may seem trivial to some, but it's that kind of reach which allows the Portuguese to rake in around $1 million per paid post. His posts have a healthy mix of personal photos, professional photos and paid content.
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Ronaldo's posts are a mix of advertising products, including sunglasses, a hair-loss clinic, and shower gels - celebrations of his achievements on the pitch and inevitably, pictures of himself modeling underwear.
Since April he has added close to 30 million followers to his fanbase and the number is only expected to grow as the player is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
However, it has been reported that all is not as it appears as over 50 million of his followers on his Instagram are fake accounts!
A HypeAuditor study has recently found that around 72.8% of his followers are real people, 2.1% are 'social media influencers', 6.4% are 'mass followers' and a massive 18.7% are 'suspicious accounts.'
The 50 million fake followers make his numbers a little less mouth-watering once you know the math behind it!
Here's how his 451.9 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 122 million subscribers
Twitter: 87.8 million followers
Instagram: 241 million followers
Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Total followers: 257.5 million
Lionel Andres Messi, born 24 June 1987, is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
Messi, arguably the best footballer in the world at the moment, has more followers on Instagram alone than fourth-placed David Beckham. He has won a record six Ballon d'Or awards, and a record six European Golden Shoes. He is among the most popular soccer players ever.
Messi has gradually dethroned his former teammate Neymar from the second spot over the year, despite not having an official Twitter account. Adidas runs a handle called Team Messi and is the closest things to Messi's twitter account right now. He prefers to keep a relatively low-profile off the pitch.
Unlike his contemporaries like Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, he does not use a Twitter account. He is known as a quiet personality when he's not dazzling on the field under the lights of Camp Nou.
The Barcelona captain is known to be a reserved person and lets his performance on the pitch do all the talking and this reflects in his social media activity as well. Most of his posts are his team related, awareness videos or sponsorship ones and he rarely shares details of his personal life online.
Here's how his 256.5 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 90.5 million likes
Instagram: 167 million followers
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Neymar - Paris Saint-Germain
Total followers: 251.1 million
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, born 5 February 1992, known as Neymar, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team. He is widely considered as one of the most popular football players of all time.
Neymar is a player that is widely known for his propensity for luxury and partying as much as he is renowned for his performances on the pitch. He is among the most popular footballers in history.
The Brazilian forward became the world's most expensive player in 2017 but even before that, he was a full-fledged celebrity having enjoyed a fruitful spell with Barcelona.
Neymar has 4800 posts on his Instagram, thus we know that he loves to share almost every aspect of his life with his 142 million followers. He had a very good season with PSG in the 2019-20 campaign, leading the club to their first-ever UEFA Champions League final.
Neymar shares his feelings with his huge number of fans. He shared a video on his Instagram, in which he explained his thought process for deciding to leave Camp Nou, "The life of an athlete is challenged. Some are given to us, others are the fruits of our own decisions.
"Barcelona has been more than a challenge. Played with those stars in the video game. I arrived in Catalonia at 21, full of challenges. I remember my first days in the Club, sharing the uniforms with idols like Messi, Valdés, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Piqué, Busquets, and others with the expectation of playing in a Club that is "more than a club".
Here's how his 251.1 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 59.7 million likes
Twitter: 49.4 million followers
Instagram: 142 million followers
Total followers: 115.4 million
David Robert Joseph Beckham, born 2 May 1975, is an English former professional footballer, the current president and co-owner of Inter Miami CF and co-owner of Salford City.
Beckham played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, Milan, LA Galaxy, Paris Saint-Germain and the England national team, for which he held the appearance record for an outfield player until 2016.
He is the first English player to win league titles in four countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. He is among the most popular footballers in history.
The ex-footballer in our list has made a seamless transition into a successful entrepreneur and public figure after bidding adieu to his career as a professional footballer in 2013.
With all the glamour that now surrounds him, it's easy to discount his abilities as a footballer. Even during his playing days he was never shy in front of the cameras and became a household name across the world with his trademark free-kicks. His physics-defying free-kicks even inspired a movie called Bend It Like Beckham in 2002.
The former Manchester United man could've had even more followers online if he had a Twitter account but that wouldn't have mattered because he still would've been at No.4 in this list as the top three are in a league of their own.
Here's how his 115.4 million fans are distributed across the social media:
Facebook: 51.1 million likes
Instagram: 64.3 million followers
Total followers: 105.4 million
Another top football player with the most fans is Ronaldinho who is retired now but he has always been one of the most controversial footballers ever. Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, born 21 March 1980, commonly known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho or simply Ronaldinho, is a Brazilian former professional footballer and current ambassador for Barcelona.
That Ronaldinho remains among the top football player with the most fans in the world several years after he hung up his boots is a testament to his likeability, legacy, and of course the kind of content he generates online. He is among the most famous soccer players of all time.
He always approached the game with a smile on his face and enjoyed every minute of it and it's because of his passion and love for the game that he has a special place among football icons.
Nike, struck gold when they decided to put Ronaldo de Assis Moreira to work in order to promote their latest pair of Nike Tiempo boots. Ronaldinho broke the Internet with insane crossbar challenge.
The ad became the first video to amass 1 million views on YouTube, which is a monumental achievement considering it was back in 2005 where Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites weren't even a thing.
He was recently arrested in Paraguay over the alleged use of fake passports and though he has since been released that might've tarnished his image a little bit.
Here's how his 105.4 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 34.1 million likes
Twitter: 19.5 million followers
Instagram: 51.8 million followers
James Rodriguez – Everton
Total followers: 96.5 million
James David Rodríguez Rubio, born 12 July 1991, commonly known as James Rodríguez or James, is a Colombian professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or winger for Premier League club Everton and the Colombia national team.
Rodriguez has been praised for his technique, vision, and playmaking skills, and often referred as the successor to his compatriot Carlos Valderrama. He is regarded as one of the most popular football players of all time.
It seems signing for Real Madrid is a sure-shot way of ensuring visibility on social media as yet another former Los Blancos star in James Rodriguez makes it onto the list.
The Columbian midfielder had spent half of his spell with the reigning La Liga champions on loan spells and it made sense that he finally secured a permanent move to Everton this summer.
His popularity across social media skyrocketed following his eye-catching performances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the subsequent move to clubs like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich only added to his fanbase. He is among the most famous soccer players ever.
Here's how his 96.5 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 31.6 million likes
Twitter: 18.7 million followers
Instagram: 46.2 million followers
Gareth Bale - Real Madrid
Total followers: 88.5 million
Gareth Frank Bale, born 16 July 1989, is a Welsh professional footballer who plays as a winger for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, on loan from Real Madrid of La Liga, and the Wales national team.
Real Madrid winger shot to fame in the summer of 2013 when the Spanish giants broke the transfer fee record for the Welshman. For the first few seasons, he lived up to his hefty price tag and impressed with his stunning performances and racked up a lot of trophies. He is among the most popular players in football history.
Though he is currently out of favour with Zinedine Zidane, he's still got his skills and continues to display them for his national team. He's been linked with a move back to the Premier League with his former employers Tottenham Hotspur and if he can succeed there he'll probably pick up a few more fans online.
Here's how his 88.5 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 27 million likes
Twitter: 18.4 million followers
Instagram: 43.1 million followers
Andres Iniesta - Vissel Kobe
Total followers: 85.7 million
Andres Iniesta Lujan, born 11 May 1984, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder and is the captain of Japanese club Vissel Kobe.
Iniesta spent most of his career at Barcelona, where he served as the captain for three seasons. He is widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He is among the most famous players in football history.
Iniesta, the former La Liga player joining our list is a Barcelona and Spain icon. Considered by many as one of the greatest midfielders of all-time, the La Masia academy product is a highly respected athlete and is one of the few opposition players to have received a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu.
He is not among the most tech-savvy footballers and despite the huge following, his posts generate much less interaction than athletes with smaller followings like Eden Hazard.
Here's how his 85.7 million fans are distributed across social media:
Facebook: 26 million likes
Twitter: 24.9 million followers
Instagram: 34.8 million followers
Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid
Total followers: 81.7 million
Sergio Ramos Garcia, born 30 March 1986, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for and captains both Real Madrid and the Spanish national team as a center back. He is on the list of football players with the most fans ever.
Ramos has also played as a right back earlier in his career. Ramos is widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, and has also received praise for his passing and goalscoring capabilities.
People online usually respond to uniqueness and passion, Ramos brings a lot of both to the table and thus enjoys a healthy fanbase of more than 81 million. The defender is fiercely competitive on the pitch and extremely active on social media as well, posting over 1900 times on Instagram till date.
He has time and again done whatever it takes to get the better of his opponents but he has always delivered results. He is still one of the best defenders in Europe and thus we can only expect his following to grow in the coming years.
Here's how his 81.7 million fans are distributed across the social media:
Facebook: 23.3 million likes
Twitter: 17.6 million followers
Instagram: 40.8 million followers
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Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
Total followers: 77.9 million
Mesut Ozil, born 15 October 1988, is a German professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder for Premier League club Arsenal.
Renowned for his technical skills and creativity, Ozil has also received praise for his agility, finesse, and versatility as an attacking midfielder. He has also been deployed as a wide midfielder in his career.
As one of the most famous football players in history, Mesut Ozil has a massive 77.9 million fanbase across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The German playmaker has not been his best on the pitch for the last few seasons but his history with Real Madrid and success with the national team means that he remains hugely popular among fans.
The player made everyone fall in love with him with his silky moves and accurate passes in the first half of the last decade but has since given up his spot in the national team and has barely been involved in the Gunners' tumultuous campaigns.
Recently he has been vocal about his immigrant background on social media and some of his posts with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have caused some controversy over the last two years.
Here's how his 77.9 million fans are distributed across the social media:
Facebook: 30.9 million likes
Twitter: 24.9 million followers
Instagram: 22.1 million followers
Marcelo - Real Madrid
Total followers: 76,200,000 followers
Marcelo Vieira da Silva Junior, born 12 May 1988, known as Marcelo is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a left back for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Brazil national team. He is widely considered as one of the most famous football players in history.
The 32-year-old has been a regular fixture in the Real Madrid line-up following his €6.50m transfer from Fluminense in 2007. It was quite a turnaround for him, considering he nearly gave up on a football career.
But Marcelo hasn’t wasted a minute of his big opportunity in Spain and has arguably been one of the greatest full-backs of the last decade. Four Champions League and La Liga titles have come his way.
Here's how his 77.9 million fans are distributed across the social media:
The Brazilian also features prominently on social media with plenty of followers Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (11.8m) and YouTube (1.26m).
Zlatan Ibrahimovc - AC Milan
Total followers: 75,600,000
Last but not least on this list of most popular football players of all time is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, born 3 October 1981, is a Swedish professional footballer who plays as a striker for Serie A club A.C. Milan.
Ibrahimovic is widely regarded as one of the best strikers of all time. He is one of the most decorated active footballers in the world, having won 31 trophies in his career.
Ibrahimovic has scored over 560 career goals, and has scored in each of the last four decades. The big Swede has dazzled supporters over the years through his sublime ball skills and sensational goals. Add his outrageous comments to the mix, then it’s easy to understand why he’s so popular.
Zlatan is also a bit of a serial winner in football, having won 11 league titles in four different nations. He’s currently playing for AC Milan again to revive his old club’s glory days in Italy.
Naturally, the 39-year-old boasts many fans on his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (6.4m) accounts.
There are other most popular football players of all time like Gerard Pique who has more than 18 Million Followers. Pique’s top pictures have more than one million likes.
Gerard Piqué Bernabeu, born 2 February 1987, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a center-back for Barcelona.
In 2018, it was reported that Pique and Shakira were not well. According to various Spanish media, the comments indicated that Piqué has been traveling frequently from Barcelona to Madrid to meet his ex-girlfriend Núria and to revive the romance of years ago.
It was also speculated that Shakira had several health complications because of the father of her two sons, Milan and Sasha. The strong stress induced by media caused the Colombian to present problems related to hair loss.
Later in April, the Spanish press reported that Shakira, who is ten years older than her boyfriend and Pique were going through an important couple crisis.
The model Núria Tomás, who has been identified as guilty of the sentimental failure of the famous couple, decided to speak through her social media.
"I could turn a deaf ear and once again let the days pass go by until they forget the lies that are said about me, but this time I don't feel like it. I find it incredible to see how invented news ends up causing all kinds of reactions and judgments of value about me. No more to add, to continue enjoying life, "said Gerard Piqué's ex on her Instagram account.
UEFA social media report
Most liked footballers on Facebook
- Cristiano Ronaldo: 122.6m followers
- Lionel Messi: 89.5m
- Neymar: 60.8m
- James Rodriguez: 32.9m
- Mesut Ozil: 31.5m
- Gareth Bale: 28.8m
Most followed footballers on Twitter
- Cristiano Ronaldo: 68.2m
- Neymar: 37.2m
- Mesut Ozil: 21.2m
- Andres Iniesta: 21.2m
- Gerard Pique: 17.6m
- Wayne Rooney: 17m
- Gareth Bale: 16.2m
- Radamel Falcao: 15.8m
- James Rodriguez: 15.7m
- Sergio Ramos: 13.8m
- Luis Suarez: 13.2m
- Sergio Kun Aguero: 12.8m
Top 5 European football clubs on Twitter (as of November 2017)
- Real Madrid: 28m
- Barcelona: 26m
- Manchester United: 16m
- Arsenal: 12m
- Chelsea: 11m
Top 5 European football clubs on Facebook (as of November 2017)
- Real Madrid: 105m
- Barcelona: 104m
- Manchester United: 74m
- Chelsea: 48m
- Arsenal: 44m