Ronaldo and Messi don’t need to dominate the World Cup to dominate fan interest

Posted 19.07.2018

Data from global football publisher Goal, proves that despite early exits, Ronaldo and Messi were the stars of the 2018 World Cup, with Neymar close behind.

Over the course of the World Cup, more than 159m fans engaged with Goal through a combination of its websites, mobile apps and social accounts, 111m of which came through its 38 international websites. Using the website data, the global football publisher has revealed although Messi’s Argentina and Ronaldo’s Portugal failed to make it beyond the round of 16, both players dominated user interest, with Neymar in third place.

Highlighting the competition between the two players, Ronaldo narrowly beat Messi to be the player responsible for generating the most traffic to Goal, with 10.3m page views attributed to the Portuguese attacker. Messi was only a half a million behind Ronaldo, with 9.8m page views attributed to the Argentinean forward. In analysing player data, non-World Cup content is excluded (eg. Ronaldo’s Juventus transfer).

Neymar’s on-field theatrics earned him plenty of attention during Russia 2018. However, the World’s most expensive player could only bring in just over half of the page views that both Ronaldo and Messi delivered, generating six million page views.

Behind Neymar, in terms of global page views were Kylian Mbappe (3.1m), Luka Modric (2.5m), Antoine Griezmann (2.1m), Harry Kane (2m), Mohammed Salah (1.4m), and Romelu Lukaku (1.2m).

James Dickens, Goal’s Global Editor-in-chief said: “Being able to cater for global football fans puts us in an enviable position at Goal and presents us with data that helps us to understand them better.

Publishers and brands recognise that Ronaldo and Messi won’t last for ever and that new stars will have to take their place. Russia 2018 is regarded by many as the both players’ final World Cup, giving us four years to find their heirs.

Four years is a long time in football, but its sobering to see that aside from Neymar no player comes close to matching them for global appeal.

However, with youth on their side, I’d expect young players like Mbappe, Kane and Lukaku to continue to rise in prominence and become football’s next global megastars.

Goal’s data also indicates which matches were responsible for the most traffic during the tournament. While many would expect all eyes to have been on the final, it was Germany’s final group match against South Korea and Mexico’s match against Sweden that brought the most traffic to Goal. The final round of group F was followed by Russia’s opening match with Saudi Arabia and Germany’s defeat to Mexico.

Dickens said: “The World Cup is a great opportunity for fans to come together and revel in their team’s success. However, it’s clear from our data that the real draw is big team upsets, of which Russia 2018 had more than its share.”

Players and matches weren’t the only traffic drivers for Goal. During the tournament the publisher noticed a significant appetite for controversy.

Dickens said: “We can see from our data that VAR was the most talked about element of the 2018 World Cup, outside of players and matches. The controversy around VAR was closely followed by Neymar’s diving, time wasting by the likes of Uruguay and Japan, and Shaqiri and Xhaka’s pro-Albanian celebration.”



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