We live in an age of social media, an era where being an Instagram influencer is a job which could earn you more in a decade than most other occupations could in a lifetime. And football is no exception to the follower-obsessed rule.
Ranking each Premier League club according to the combined number of Instagram followers boasted by each squad's players, Digital PR agency Tank has come up with an alternative Premier League table in which Manchester United are once again kings, in which Brighton are relegated, and in which newly-promoted Aston Villa are in the top half of the division.
With almost 110 million Insta followers between them, Ole Gunnar Solskjær's players are around 24 million followers ahead of Liverpool, with Paul Pogba not only leading the Manchester United squad, but the entire Premier League with his 36.8m followers.
For second-placed Liverpool (total of 85.2m), forward Mo Salah stands out (30.8m), while for Manchester City (74.3m), the leading man is young Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus (13.2m). Arsenal (74m) round out the top four thanks to Mesut Ozil (20.7m), while the most-followed manager is Chelsea's Frank Lampard (3.6m).
"With over one billion Instagram users worldwide, it's no surprise there's substantial interest in the lives of some of the planet's most recognisable footballers," said Dave Endsor, head of content at Tank. "Now more than ever, we want to know everything we can about our footballing heroes, and Instagram plays a huge part in that.
“Manchester United’s worldwide appeal has not diminished despite their on-pitch performance in recent years," Dave added. "Their global brand dominance also places them as the country's most valuable football club, according to Forbes.”
Other standout players include Chelsea's Willian (9m), Spurs' Harry Kane (8.8m), West Ham's Javier Hernandez (5.3m), Aston Villa's new forward Trezeguet (3.8m), and Everton's Yerry Mina (3.4m). The club who's most-followed player ranks lowest on a club-by-club basis is Patrick Roberts, whose 199,000 Instagram followers make him the most followed player for Norwich City, closely followed by Sheffield United's Dean Henderson (207,000).
Burnley (2.2m) are placed as the 17th most-followed squad on Instagram thanks to a last-minute move for Danny Drinkwater and his half-a-million followers, although their top-performer on social media is still Joe Hart, who brings some 1.2m followers to the Clarets' table. Sheffield United prop up the table with a comparatively paltry 737,000 combined Insta followers.
Joel Smith, designer for global creative company Moving Brands, said: “Clubs now have the power to pitch their social media presence to potential signings, with the promise of becoming a social and footballing superstar by choosing to sign for a club over its rivals. This will help the player develop their personal brand, increasing off-field earnings through sponsorships and endorsements.”
“Knowing [clubs] can recoup a player’s expensive transfer fee through shirt sales and corporate appearances will put a club at ease before handing over tens, or even hundreds of millions of pounds for a highly-valued asset," Joel continued.
Between them, the top five most-followed Premier League footballers (Paul Pogba, Mo Salah, Mesut Ozil, David Luiz (19.1m), and Gabriel Jesus have a combined 120m followers on Instagram, which is - staggeringly - still almost 60 million followers behind the most-followed footballer on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo (179.3m), who also happens to be the most-followed human on the platform and the owner of the second-most followed account on Earth (after Instagram's own Insta account with an eye-boggling 309m followers).