Football’s Fake Followers On Instagram

Author: Last Updated: May 6, 2022

Fake Instagram Followers Football

Our biggest and best football stars are never far away from an Instagram post win, lose, or draw and often pride themselves on their follower count as much as their goal tally.

Whilst those at the top of the tables thank their fans for their support, and Manchester United’s players follow up apology after apology, who is it they’re really talking to online?

Social media, and Instagram in particular is a numbers game, especially given that influencers can easily turn their follower base into monetary opportunities with the likes of brand partnerships and sponsored posts. With that said, stars are often called out for having a high volume of followers that appear to be fake or are likely to be bots upping their social media following count.

Here at, we take a look at some of football’s biggest stars-turned-influencers to review the authenticity and reality of their social media presence.

Continue reading to find out which profiles of both top football players and clubs appear to be filled with fake followers and who has the largest percentage of genuine followers…

Top 10 Most Followed Footballers On Instagram

Across Instagram, it is no surprise to see Manchester United and former Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo topping the charts for the most followed footballer on the platform with over 430 million followers. Cristiano was closely followed by his long-term Balon d’Or rival Lionel Messi who followed in second with just over 320 million followers. Controversial Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar rounds off the top three as his following see’s him break past the 170 million mark.

Most Followed Players Instagram

Whilst Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar top the follower standings, all three are also responsible for the highest volumes of fake followers to boost their follower count. Ronaldo leads the way yet again with a huge 100 million fake followers, with Messi and Neymar following behind.

Despite the firing front three leading the way in the volume of fake social media followers, percentage-wise it is Sergio Ramos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who follow the Portuguese star with 22.42% and 22.26% of their total social media followers made up of sham accounts.

Colombian international James Rodriguez and Real Madrid Brazilian stalwart Marcelo also pack out the littered list of top followed Social Media accounts yet also find themselves littered with almost a fifth of their total followers consisting of fake accounts.

Influencers across the world of sport and beyond can earn in the region of £0.0033 per follower for a standard post deriving from the interaction from followers and the global outlay of their social reach across the world from accounts that follow them. From this, we can see that the top two followed accounts (Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi) both surpass £1 million in earnings across their social media posts on Instagram, with Ronaldo nearing the £1.5 million mark.

When accounting for the fake followers each has within their follower base, we can see that the volume of fake followers can account for over £335k (Ronaldo) and £232k (Messi) respectively. Elsewhere, the players with the highest percentage of fake followers within their accounts, Sergio Ramos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, amount for £37k and £39k worth of earnings each time they post on Instagram deriving from fake followers.

Top 10 Most Followed Clubs

The fake followers don’t stop at the most followed players either, with all clubs also wanting to ensure that their follow count surpasses their rivals as they compete for global reach through social media and the internet, accessing supporters that wouldn’t traditionally be intuitive of their teams. Given this, it’s unsurprising that the top 10 followed clubs are littered with Europe’s elite with the only real surprise entry being Arsenal given their lack of continental success.

Most Followed Clubs Instagram

Real Madrid and Barcelona take the two top spots in the follower count, as the pair are clear of their European rivals clocking up over 100 million followers each, with Los Blancos taking top spot. Paris Saint-Germain follow behind the Spanish giants in a tight battle for third with just short of 60 million followers, beating Manchester United and Juventus to the punch.

Similarly to the players’ accounts, the most followed clubs also account for the most fake followers within their social media follower base, inflating the perception of their online presence. It is German stalwarts Bayern Munich however that have more than one-quarter of their social media followers inflated by fake accounts, giving a significantly false representation of the true volume of accounts that follow the club. English duo Chelsea and Manchester City also follow closely behind with just short of a quarter of their online supporters consisting of fake accounts, giving a slightly false representation of their true global reach.

Premier League Club’s Fake Following

Outside of the leading ten clubs in European football, the remainder of the Premier League clubs can also be seen to expand their global reach through active social media accounts with all remaining 15 clubs from the 2021/22 Premier League season having active Instagram accounts with Tottenham Hotspur leading the way exceeding 12 million followers.

Premier League Followers Instagram

Across all of the clubs, consistent with both the leading players and clubs, fake followers again are used to amplify the follower count of these clubs lending to an untrue actual representation of the volume of followers each side has amassed. Similarly to previous examples, those clubs with the highest follower counts have naturally also amassed the highest volume of fake followers across their accounts such as Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Despite this, when looking into the true percentage of fake followers each club has amassed in relation to their total follower count, it is clubs further down the follower rankings – with the exception of Leicester – who have the highest ratio of fake to genuine social media followers. Burnley (35.86%), Watford (35.22%), and Crystal Palace (33.62%) all show to have over one-third of their total follower base originating from fake accounts and bloating their true social media presence.

Perhaps most intriguing, given that it is easier for clubs with smaller follower totals to have a higher fake follower percentage, is that Leicester City with over 6 million followers, likely deriving from their recent underdog successes, also have a noticeably large fake follower percentage of 31.77% meaning that they have over 2 million fake followers propping up their total follower count and social reach.

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*Revenue figures compiled using e-marketer 2019 study into earnings per follower.