Anthony Martial more popular in China than Lionel Messi, report shows


The latest Red Card Report has been revealed, with some surprising results.

The Red Card Report is a study which monitors the popularity of different players, clubs, and leagues in China based on social media research. The study is conducted by Mailman Group.

The report analyses data from Chinese social media, such as Weibo – a blogging site – and Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok. On the latter, the Red Card Report noted a 50% increase in active clubs.

Anthony Martial more popular in China than Lionel Messi, report shows
Ronaldo was China’s most popular footballer once again

The 2021 edition of the Red Card Report has been released, showing Cristiano Ronaldo to be China’s most popular footballer for the third year running. The Portuguese forward proved to be huge on Weibo, being five times more popular than the second biggest footballer on the site, which was Neymar.

Speaking about topping the charts, Ronaldo said (via South China Morning Post): “Thank you to everyone for this award for the third time. I know how passionate the Chinese fans are about football, and this is a real honour for me. I wish you all my very best and hope to see you soon.”

Meanwhile, David Beckham was football’s second most popular star in China, despite retiring over seven years ago. The former England international was top of the charts on Douyin, and finished second overall behind Ronaldo, and ahead of Neymar in third.

Rather surprisingly, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial finished in fourth place, one spot ahead of six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

While Messi finished only in fifth, Barcelona remained the most popular club in China for the second successive year, having dominated on Douyin. This was in spite of all the troubles surrounding the club in 2020, from Messi’s transfer request, to financial difficulty, to their failure to lift any silverware.

Anthony Martial more popular in China than Lionel Messi, report shows
Barcelona ranked highly despite a difficult year

Real Madrid and Chelsea came in second and third respectively, ensuring that last year’s top three remained unchanged.

The English Premier League once again proved to be the most popular league, having twice the engagement on Douyin than second-placed La Liga.

Premier League CEO Richard Masters commented on the award, saying (via South China Morning Post): “Football fans in China have shown their loyal and passionate support for Premier League clubs for many years, so we are proud to have won the Red Card award again.”


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