Emma Raducanu has experienced an incredible rise in popularity after she dramatically won the US Open – but Cristiano Ronaldo was the athlete whose total followers grew the most in 2021.
There are billions of sports fans around the world who follow their favourite athletes on social media, with Instagram allowing an intimate insight into their stars’ personal lives.
ManySpins.com discovered which athlete has gained the most followers in 2021 so far, using Social Blade’s gained Instagram followers’ tool from January 2021 to September 2021, ranking the athletes that have gained the most fans this calendar year.
British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu enjoyed a meteoric rise following her US Open heroics – and her surge in followers on the social media platform mirror her escalating profile.
Raducanu became the first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam, and did so without dropping a set. It was the 18-year-old’s second appearance at such a tournament after reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon, and her win has seen her become a global sporting superstar.
Raducanu attended the exclusive Met Gala just days after her win, receiving a last-minute invitation before becoming an ambassador of Tiffany & Co.
As a result of her tremendous performances at the SW19 championships and the US Open, Raducanu was the athlete with the biggest percentage increase in followers this year by some considerable margin.
Raducanu went from 9,618 followers on January 1 to 2,014,719 at the time of the study – an increase of 20,847%, which trumps her Flushing Meadows final opponent and fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez.
The Canadian experienced a 2,990% increase, which was second among athletes.
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While these tremendous young athletes experienced excellent breakout years, they have some way to go before they can even think about challenging Cristiano Ronaldo at the top.
The Manchester United forward was already the most followed figure on Instagram with 250,095,036 followers on January 1 but now boasts 346,345,192 – a monster increase of 96,250,156, the most of any athlete in 2021.
Both he and great rival Lionel Messi – who sits in second place after an increase of just over 92 million followers – benefitted from their high-profile transfers to United and PSG respectively.
Ronaldo earned just over 3,000,000 new followers after confirming his return to Old Trafford while Messi brought in 5,403,211 new fans when he sensationally swapped Barcelona for Paris.
In the top 10 athletes with the biggest total follower increase of 2021, there are seven footballers to cement the sport’s status as the most popular in the world.
In terms of footballers, Ronaldo and Messi are followed by the Argentine’s new teammates Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, while Erling Haaland, Sergio Ramos and Paul Pogba round out the top 10.
India cricket captain Virat Kohli comes in third to stand as the highest non-footballer on the list, with just over 70 million new followers in 2021. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James follows Kohli with 70,264,192 new followers.
The final non-footballer is Rayssa Leal, the teenage Brazilian skateboarder who won silver medal in the women’s street event at the Tokyo Olympics. She had just 542,428 followers at the start of the year, but now has 6,898,499 – with her increase of 6,356,071 the seventh largest jump in total followers by any athlete.
In fact, the 13-year-old’s follower increase of 1,172% was large enough to come in at fourth on the percentage increase in followers list topped by Raducanu.
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