Instagram is easily one of the biggest social media platforms out there. It’s used by hundreds of millions of people, who use it to share photos and videos with friends and family. Instagram is also a common place that celebrities will use to connect with their fans. It’s an especially popular platform among professional athletes. In this article, I’m going to be talking about some of the most popular professional athletes that can be found on Instagram. I’m ranking these athletes based on popularity, which can most easily be measured by how many followers they have. In many cases, too, popularity correlates with prowess. Without further ado, let’s see if we can’t learn a little bit more about these super popular Instagram athletes.
#10 – Luis Suárez
The first professional athlete on Instagram that we’re going to be talking about is Luis Suárez. This professional footballer has 22.3 million followers on the platform. Suárez was originally born in Uruguay, and he plays striker for both the Uruguay national team and FC Barcelona. Luis is a seriously talented striker, holding the all-time record for goal scoring on the Uruguay national team. He’s a bit of a controversial player, with some people believing that he tends to play dirty. He was even found guilty by the Football Association of racial abuse against Patrice Evra. However, there’s no denying that Suárez is a major talent on the field. Last year, The Guardian named him the third best football player in the entire world. That’s a bold claim, but he certainly has the track record to back it up. If his Instagram account is any indication, he’s very popular, too.
#9 – Ronaldinho
Next, we’re going to talk about another professional footballer. Ronaldo Moreira, known simply as Ronaldinho, is a Brazilian footballer who currently serves as an ambassador for FC Barcelona. He has 23.1 million followers on Instagram, and over the years he has put a considerable amount of work into playing for the Brazil national team. He has played a whopping 97 matches with the team, scoring 33 goals through those matches. Ronaldinho is a seriously talented attacking midfielder, and he was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in both 2004 and 2005. In a list compiled by the legendary Pelé, this Brazilian superstar was named one of the greatest living soccer players of all time. He may not be quite as much of a big name as Luis Suárez, but he certainly has his fans.
#8 – Zlatan Ibrahimović
Zlatan Ibrahimović is the next professional athlete on our list, with 25.2 million followers on Instagram. As you may have been able to discern from his name, Zlatan is Swedish. However, he plays football as a forward for Manchester United, which is obviously an English club. He also played for the Swedish national team for a time, serving as a captain starting in 2010 but deciding to retire from international football in 2016. His international career may be over now, but it was certainly a significant one. Ibrahimović is a member of an elite group of footballers who have made 100 or more appearances with Sweden’s national team. Not only that, but Zlatan holds the honor of being Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 62 goals. This guy is probably the greatest footballer in Sweden right now, and needless to say, this has guaranteed him a certain degree of fame.
#7 – Gareth Bale
Now it’s time to talk about Gareth Bale, and he’s certainly a recognizable name in the football world. Bale has 29.2 million followers on Instagram. He was originally born in Cardiff, Wales, and so he competes with the Wales national team. However, he also plays for Real Madrid, the Spanish football club. Gareth is winger who originally began his career playing for Southampton, but he’s probably more well known for playing with Tottenham Hotspur for a significant chunk of time. He had over 100 appearances with Tottenham Hotspur, scoring over 40 goals. Bale began playing internationally in 2006, which at the time made him the youngest person to ever play for the Welsh national team. He’s currently the second highest goalscorer to ever play for the national team, sitting just behind Ian Rush. Bale may not have scored as many goals as Ian Rush, but he definitely has more Instagram followers than he does!
#6 – LeBron James
We’ve mostly talked about footballers so far, but LeBron James is ready to break that streak. He has 30.4 million followers on Instagram, and that seem like a fair amount when you consider that he’s thought to be the greatest basketball player alive right now. He plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers right now, but he’s also known for work that he has done with the Miami Heat. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, straight out of high school. James is an undeniably gifted small forward, and he has been named the NBA’s most valuable player four times between 2009 and 2013. He has also been named the MVP of the NBA Finals three times between 2013 and 2016. He’s pretty much always been in the spotlight, and he’s flourished there. LeBron is probably one of the most influential people in sports in the United States, and he has the Instagram follower count to match.
#5 – James Rodriguez
It seems like we’re right back to talking about professional footballers. James Rodriguez is Colombian, and he’s made a real name for himself playing for both Real Madrid and the Colombia national team. He primarily play as an attacking midfielder, but he’s also capable of playing winger. Rodriguez has 31.2 million followers on Instagram, and that number is just sure to rise as his popularity in the sport increases. Rodriguez is only 25 years old, but he’s considered one of the best players to come out of his generation. He’s scored 19 goals during his 54 appearances with the Colombia national team, and he has scored 28 goals during this 77 appearances with Real Madrid. He may be a younger guy, but he’s definitely proved himself on the field.
#4 – David Beckham
People living in the United States may not be that well-versed in football (or soccer, as we know it), but I think that a lot of us have at least heard of David Beckham. He’s one of the more well-known footballers in the world, partially due to his talent and partially due to the fact that he’s played in so many different places. He’s the only English player to have won league titles in four different countries. Beckham is retired today, but he is still renowned for his level of play with Manchester United, LA Galaxy, and the English national team. David Beckham’s popularity extends past his work in sports, too. He has very high profile marriage to Victoria Beckham, and his children are also frequently thrust into the public eye. Basically, he’s a public figure, and his 37.1 million Instagram followers support that fact.
#3 – Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is considered by many to be one of the greatest football players of all time. He’s a forward, and he currently plays for both the Argentina national team FC Barcelona, which is a Spanish club. Messi holds numerous records. In 2012, he established himself as the all-time top scorer for FC Barcelona, which definitely isn’t something to scoff at. Over the course of his career, he has scored over 500 senior career goals. Regarding his international career, Messi has scored a whopping 58 goals through 117 appearances with Argentina. As someone who was shorter and left-footed, Messi was sort of an underdog when he entered football. He was injury prone during his early years, but fast forward to today and he’s a huge success story. Not to mention, he has 72.4 million followers on Instagram.
#2 – Neymar
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, known simply as Neymar, is another highly talented player to come from Brazil. He’s a forward, and he plays for the Brazil national team and for FC Barcelona, alongside Lionel Messi. Neymar is a young guy, but in a relatively short period of time, he has rocketed to prominence in football. Since 2010, he has scored 52 goals in 77 appearances with Brazil’s national team. If you don’t know a lot about football, let me enlighten you: that’s majorly impressive. He’s also had a very strong senior career with Barcelona, scoring 68 goals in 123 appearances. Neymar has been compared to the legendary Pelé, and in 2016 ESPN named him one of the world’s most famous athletes. As of this writing, this footballing legend has a total of 75.2 million followers on Instagram.
#1 – Cristiano Ronaldo
Like David Beckham and Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of those names that even Americans who aren’t familiar with football are probably familiar with. He’s easily the most famous football player alive right now, and there are many who would argue that he is the best football player of all time. Cristiano is a forward from Portugal, and he plays for Real Madrid as well as the Portugal national team. His move from Manchester United to Real Madrid way back in 2009 was worth $132 million, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s an athlete who is held in high regard by his peers. In 2016, he was the world’s best paid athlete, and today, he’s probably the world’s most famous athlete. Ronaldo is a seriously gifted player, and he has 102 million followers on Instagram.