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Instagram’s Most Influential Footballers To Watch At FIFA World Cup 2022

As the world takes notice of the young football talent ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022, I spoke to Nielsen InfluenceScope who have recently ranked Instagram’s most influential players under the age of 25.

Tournament-favourite Brazil, headlined by newly-signed Manchester United forward Antony, boasts six players in the Breakthrough Players’ Top 10.

The rankings are based on a variety of growth factors between August 1, 2022, and October 31, 2022, to identify World Cup players who have been trending highest since the beginning of the domestic season.

Nielsen utilized its influencer measurement tool, InfluenceScope, to evaluate total followers, follower growth, engagement rate, and average brand value per post on Instagram to determine which players provide the most Social Media Value for the fee required.

Antony, who moved to Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window, has grown his Instagram following nearly 90% following his transfer from Ajax.

His average social media value of $346,717 is already nearly half of the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema. Antony ranks eighth in the overall top 10 of the Most Influential Players. 

Antony’s new club teammate, Argentine centre-back Lisandro Martinez, has doubled his following (+104%) over the past three months.

His 27% engagement rate is the highest among trending players under the age of 25. Like Antony, Martinez transferred to Manchester United from Dutch champions Ajax during the summer transfer window. 

Manchester UnitedBarcelona and Real Madrid are key clubs for increasing Instagram growth. Eight of the top 10 compete for these three footballing giants. 

Gavi and Raphinha have dropped to sixth- and third-place, respectively, in the Breakthrough Players to Watch as both have become regulars in their clubs’ starting XIs.

Gavi, the 19-year-old Spanish central midfielder, has grown his average social media value nearly 24%to $491,897 over the past three months. 

Twenty-two-year-old winger Vinícius Júnior, who scored Real Madrid’s winner in the 2022 Champions League final, commands the highest social media value in the Breakthrough Players to Watch at the World Cup.

His total of 24 million followers is over three-times higher than the next highest player in the rankings (Rodrygo, 8M). Vinícius Júnior’s $660,888value per post ranks fifth-highest among the Most Influential Players, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema. 

Jules Kounde ranks behind only Antony and Martinez in terms of follower growth. Since transferring from Sevilla to Barcelona at the end of July, the French centre back has increased his following over 76%.  

Brazilian striker Pedro is the lone Breakthrough Player who plays domestically outside of Europe. The Flamengo standout slots in fourth with 3.9 million followers and a 34% growth rate; he has been linked to possible interest from Premier League club Leeds United.  

Karim Benzema leapfrogged Kylian Mbappé and Vinícius Júnior in the Most Influential Footballers at the World Cup on the back of his Ballon d’Or award. The top three remain unchanged in Cristiano RonaldoLionel Messi and Neymar.  

With injuries to N’Golo Kante and Paul PogbaSergio Ramos not being named to the Spanish squad, and Paulo Dybala sliding down the ranks, places seven through 10 in the Most Influential Players Top 10 have gone to GaviAntonyCasemiro, and Robert Lewandowski.


Breakthrough Players: top young players to watch for at the World Cup (August 2022 – October 2022)

In this case, leveraging the flexibility of InfluenceScope, more weight was given to the growth in following and performance over the past three months than to more static KPIs.

 PlayerCountry ClubHandleFollowValue
Antony Brazil Man Utd antony00 5.7M $346,717 
Lisandro Martinez Argentina Man Utd lisandromartinezzz 1.8M $151,773 
Raphinha Brazil Barcelona raphinha 3.4M $8,740 
Pedro Brazil Flamengo pedroguilherme 3.9M $185,990 
Jules Kounde France Barcelona jkeey4 1.8M $152,745 
Gavi Spain Barcelona pablogavi 7M $491,897 
Viní Jr. Brazil Real Madrid vinijr 24.2M $660,888 
Richarlison Brazil Tottenham richarlison 6.7M $176,684 
Pedri Spain Barcelona pedri 7.8M $313,838 
10 Rodrygo Brazil Real Madrid rodrygogoes 8M $173,081 

Instagram’s 10 most influential footballers

The methodology includes a range of performance and sponsorship-related key performance indicators (KPI) including social following, content engagement, fan base growth, and equivalent media value of branded content published by each player. 

Leveraging the flexibility of InfluenceScope, different weights are given to each KPI in order to differentiate them in terms of importance.

 Player Country ClubHandleFollowValue
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Man Utd cristiano 493.3M $2,794,333 
Lionel Messi Argentina PSG leomessi 370.6M $1,952,150 
Neymar Brazil PSG neymarjr 181M $969,089 
Karim Benzema France Real Madrid karimbenzema 60.2M $701,848 
Kylian Mbappé France PSG k.mbappe 73.1M $603,845 
Viní Jr. Brazil Real Madrid vinijr 24.2M $660,888 
Gavi Spain Barcelona pablogavi 7M $491,897 
Antony Brazil Man Utd antony00 5.7M $346,717 
Casemiro Brazil Man Utd casemiro 17.9M $349,954 
10 Robert Lewandowski Poland Barcelona _rl9 30.8M $388,316 

Visit Nielsen’s FIFA World Cup 2022: the essential data hub for more insights.

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