Ahead of the award of the 2021 Ballon D’Or, we tap into data from YouGov Global Fan Profiles to uncover the most loved male footballers in five key markets – Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Across all 38 markets where Global Fan Profiles collects data, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the biggest fan favourites. Almost two in five (37%) avid football fans across the globe say Messi is their favourite player with Cristiano Ronaldo not far behind (35%). The duo have won 11 of the last 12 Ballon D’Or titles between them and they are both strong contenders for this year’s award too.
The star players are also a prominent fixture in most of the five markets we focus on in this piece, but the degree to which each player is picked as a favourite varies significantly, as do the other footballers that make it to the top five in each market.
Britain’s favourite footballer is Marcus Rashford, with a quarter of Brits (24%) that watch or follow football regularly choosing the England international. Messi (22%) claims the second spot followed by Mo Salah (20%), Harry Kane (20%) and Cristiano Ronaldo (20%).
Germans have no room for either of Messi or Ronaldo in their top five. The German fan favourite list is dominated by a host of Bayern Munich stars – Thomas Muller (27%), Robert Lewandowski (22%), Manuel Neuer (22%) and Joshua Kimmich (21%). The list is rounded off by Real Madrid star (and German international) Toni Kroos (16%), who also played for Bayern Munich until 2014.
The French fan-favourite list is topped by Kylian Mbappé, who is a favourite of two in five (42%) avid football fans in the country. His compatriots N'Golo Kanté (38%) and Antoine Griezmann (38%) enjoy similar levels of fan following. Messi (37%) and Ronaldo (34%) sit at fourth and fifth respectively, with the support of over a third of France’s football followers behind them.
Messi and Ronaldo occupy the top two spots in the hearts of Spanish football fans with both having played out considerable parts of their careers in the country, but the difference between the two is significant. Messi is picked as a favourite by two in five fans (43%), whereas Ronaldo is supported by three in ten (28%). Sergio Ramos (28%), Luis Suarez (22%) and Kylian Mbappé (21%) are the other top names.
With about three in ten avid football fans in Italy selecting them as favourites, Messi (32%) and Ronaldo (30%) retain their top positions there. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (23%), Gianluigi Buffon (23%) and Lorenzo Insigne (21%) complete the top five in Italy.
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Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which includes data from 38 markets, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Data referenced is based on a sample size of between 1,635 and 10,168 adults. Online interviews were conducted between November 2020 and November 2021.