Cristiano Ronaldo is earning the most money among global football stars per Instagram post from fake followers – research

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Darren Staples Livepic Reuters

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Darren Staples Livepic Reuters

Published Feb 1, 2023


Johannesburg - Football legend and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is earning about £398k (about R8 507 082) per Instagram post from fake followers, a new study has found.

This is according to research conducted by which sought to discover which global football stars were making the most money on Instagram from their fake followers.

To do this, leading secondary marketplace for football tickets utilised the Instagram credibility tool to find how many of a profile’s followers were fake. They also used the social media earnings calculator to estimate how much of footballers’ earnings per sponsored post come from illegitimate users. dominates the table with more than 130 807 500 million fake followers on Instagram, just under a quarter of his audience on the platform. It is estimated that Ronaldo scores £1 627 980.00 per Instagram post – a figure that would be £398 041.11 lighter if it weren’t for his inactive following.

“This is 35.3% more than the estimated illegitimate accounts revenue going to his biggest international rival, Lionel Messi (£195 194.80),” the researchers said.

In second place is Paris Saint-Germain forward and World Cup winner Lionel Messi, with 100 716 000 million fake followers – 23.9% of his total following.

“This counterfeit audience is estimated to be bringing in £195 194.80 per post for the football maestro,” the research explained.

“If all his 160 posts over the course of 2022 were sponsored, the Argentine would have brought in a sensational £31 231 168.32, solely from fake accounts.”

Meanwhile, PSG’s Neymar lands in third with an Instagram following consisting of just over 43 million illegitimate accounts: 21.4% of his current 201 million, earning him an estimated £116 287.12 per sponsored post.

“In fact, Ronaldo is the only player in the top four that does not play for PSG but Messi, Neymar and Mbappé combined cannot eclipse Ronaldo’s mammoth income from fake followers with an estimated £364 464.12 per sponsored post between them,” said.

In fourth place was Kylian Mbappé, with 19 676 190 of his 95 100 000 followers being illegitimate. This results in £52 982.20 worth of potential earnings from every sponsored post for the PSG forward.

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema rounded out the top 5, earning an estimated £44 318.46 from fake followers per sponsored post.

“The striker has 64 300 000 followers, 16 441 510 of which are estimated to be bots – this is the equivalent of 25.57%, the highest of any player in the top 10,” said.

In order to compile the research, also seeded a list of footballers generated from The Guardian’s Top 100 Football Players in the World and Planet Football’s 10 Most Followed Footballers on Instagram. Footballers who have retired from playing were omitted from the study. Footballers’ Instagram handles were analysed by’s audience credibility tool to generate an estimated percentage of fake accounts of the account’s following and the estimated amount of fake accounts was subtracted from the respective account’s total following to produce both a number of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ followers.

In addition, Influencer Marketing Hub’s Instagram earnings calculator was utilised to produce estimated earnings for a sponsored post from each Instagram profile and in order to calculate an estimated earning from fake profiles, this figure was multiplied by the estimated number of fake accounts.

Players and clubs were ranked in descending order by their total number of fake followers and the data was retrieved on January 17, 2023, and is accurate as of then.

The Saturday Star