It’s safe to say that the Premier League is home to some of the best-known players in football. Many of them find themselves lifted from the rank of athlete to bonafide celebrity, and everything that goes with that.
Part of being a celebrity in this day and age is amassing a huge number of followers on social media websites, like Instagram. But what might not be so obvious is that not all of these accounts are actual people.
The experts at Seatpick wanted to find out which of the top-performing footballers had fake followers, how many of their followers were fake, and which club had the most fake followers.
Top 10 Players with the Most Fake Followers
From a list of the 100 best-performing English Premier League players (according to their market value), we’ve created a list of the top 10 players who have the most fake followers on their Instagram accounts.
- Mohamed Salah
Mo Salah is one of the most successful football players on the planet right now, let alone in the Premier League, so it’s no surprise that he has earned the highest number of Instagram followers on our list. With over 59 million followers total, it makes sense that at least some of them would be fake, right? Well, it seems over 12 million of his followers are not as real as they seem. That’s 21.65% of his total followers!
- Raphaël Varane
Second on our list is Raphaël Varane. The Manchester United defender is a fair way behind Mo Salah when it comes to Instagram followers, although over 21.5 million is nothing to be sniffed at. Of his tens of millions of followers, Varane seems to have just over six million fake ones. While that’s under half the amount of fake followers that Salah has, they make up a higher percentage of his total followers—27.88%.
- Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has made waves in football and is widely regarded as one of the best young players in the world. The Manchester City forward has broken records, such as most goals in one season, so it’s easy to see why the public love him. He has amassed a huge following of almost 30 million. However, over 5.9 million of these accounts seem to be fake, which is over a fifth of his total followers (20.43%).
- Kevin De Bruyne
Also based with Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne lands in fourth place on our list. De Bruyne is an icon of football today. Off the field, De Bruyne’s influence extends to social media, where he boasts an impressive following on Instagram, tallying almost 22 million followers. However, not all of these followers are genuine fans. Just under 5.7 million of them appear to be fake, making up a significant chunk of 25.88% of his total follower count.
- Carlos Casemiro
Carlos Casemiro, better known as simply Casemiro, concludes the top five of our list. Representing the mighty Manchester United, Casemiro has amassed a massive fan base. His Instagram profile boasts a following of over 21 million devoted supporters, however, not all of these followers are real. Our research indicates that just over five million of them are nothing more than fake accounts, accounting for a staggering 24.18% of his total followers.
- Gabriel Jesus
Next up on our list is Gabriel Jesus, the lightning-fast forward tearing up the pitch for Arsenal. Off the field, Jesus has cultivated an impressive following on Instagram, with his numbers soaring close to the 22 million mark. However, it’s worth noting that a significant portion of his followers—5,019,601 to be exact—seem to be fake accounts, accounting for a notable 23.06% of his total Instagram following.
- Richarlison de Andrade
Richarlison de Andrade, who, like Casemiro, is a Brazilian better known by his mononymous label, plays for Tottenham Hotspur. Something of a contentious figure, Richarlison has nonetheless garnered over 22.1 million followers on Instagram. Of these followers, less than five million seem to be fake, which means 21.33% aren’t all they say they are.
- Harry Kane
Harry Kane, the Golden Boot-winning Golden Boy of British football, lands in eighth spot on our list. Despite his popularity, the Spurs player has significantly fewer Instagram followers than the previous players on our list. With just over 14 million followers, Kane has some catching up to do. Of these, just under 3.8 million have been deemed to be fake, equating to almost a quarter (26.20%).
- Marcus Rashford
Known for his incredible acts of charity off the pitch and his lightning pace on it, Marcus Rashford, the dynamic forward of Manchester United, secures the ninth spot on our list.
When it comes to his Instagram following, Rashford surpasses the likes of Kane in terms of sheer numbers, accumulating an impressive tally of over 15.5 million followers. Remarkably, he also boasts a lower number of fake followers compared to the England captain, with fewer than four million of his followers appearing to be bot accounts. This makes up for 23.20% of Rashford’s total Instagram following.
- Raheem Sterling
Another Wunderkind of British football gracing our top 10 list is none other than Raheem Sterling, the lightning-quick forward representing Chelsea. Taking a closer look at Sterling’s Instagram profile, we found that while he boasts a respectable following of over 10.4 million fans, however, 26.44% of these may be fake. It appears that nearly one in four of his followers are not genuine accounts, with three million being flagged as fake.
Top 5 Premier League Players with the Highest Percentage of Fake Followers
During the process of collecting and organising this data, we noticed that some players have a significantly higher percentage of fake followers than others. While we can’t know for certain how these players earned all these fake followers, it is interesting to see.
- Wilfred Ndidi
In first place with the highest percentage of fake followers by a large margin is Wilfred Ndidi. The Leicester City defensive midfielder has just shy of 700 thousand Instagram followers in total, of which a staggering 426 thousand are fake. That means 62.77% of his total Instagram following are fraudulent or bot accounts.
- Benoît Badiashile
Second in our list is Benoît Badiashile. The French Chelsea defender has fewer than 400 thousand followers, but of these over 130 thousand have been deemed fake. That’s 36.27% of his total following!
- Reece James
In third place on our list is Reece James. Despite a spate of injuries, the Chelsea defender remains popular and has almost three million followers on Instagram. However, over a third of these are, sadly, fake. With almost one million fake followers, 35.83% of James’ followers are bots.
- Marc Cucurella
Another Chelsea defender, Marc Cucurella lands in fourth place on our list. The defender has just under 700 thousand followers on Instagram, so is far from the most popular we’ve looked at so far. Of these, over 200 thousand are fake, which means almost a third (32.90%) of his followers don’t pass the authenticity check.
- Ben Chilwell
Rounding off the top five is Ben Chilwell’s Instagram account. With almost two million followers on Instagram, Ben is Chil-well on his way to becoming an influencer, over 500 thousand of his followers have been deemed inauthentic accounts. This equates to almost a third of fake followers (32.27%).
Premier League Official Club Accounts with the Most Fake Instagram Followers
It’s not just the players themselves that fall victim to influxes of fake followers—football clubs’ official Instagram accounts can also experience a bounty of bot accounts. We looked at every Premier League club to see which teams had fake followers, which teams had none, and which teams had the most.
- Manchester United
It might not come as a surprise, but the football club with the greatest number of Instagram followers is Manchester United. As one of, if not the, most popular teams in the world, Manchester United boasts over 60 million followers on the ‘gram. Of these, almost 14 million have proven to be fake—that’s 22.44%.
- Manchester City
Manchester-based teams seem to be the biggest victims of fake followers, with Manchester United’s local rivals Manchester City holding the second spot.
City’s Instagram empire boasts a staggering 42 million followers, which is a testament to their massive fan base. However, amidst the sea of supporters, it seems that approximately 10.5 million, representing a substantial 24.67%, may not be as genuine as they’d hoped.
Third place on our list is Chelsea. The London club has been in the upper echelons of the Premier League for decades, so it’s little wonder why they have so many followers—real or not. Of their 39 million Instagram followers, it seems that almost a quarter of them (almost 10 million or 24.49%) lack authenticity.
In fourth place we find the mighty Liverpool, a club that needs no introduction in the world of football. Their fan base stretches far and wide, and their Instagram presence reflects their immense popularity. With a whopping 42 million followers, Liverpool’s digital army eclipses even the likes of Chelsea.
However, over one in five of their followers could be fake, as 22.51% of accounts following the official team Instagram show signs of being bots.
Rounding out the top five is Arsenal. While still one of the best-known teams in the Premier League, Arsenal has significantly fewer Instagram followers overall. It still has plenty, though, with just over 26 million. That doesn’t mean it’s made up of legitimate Gunners fans though, as a quarter of these (6.5 million or 24.63%) are deemed to be fake.
- Tottenham Hotspur
With another significant dip in follower count we have Tottenham Hotspur, who have amassed 15 million followers on Instagram over the years. However, of these followers, Spurs seems to have a higher percentage of fake followers. Just over four million, or 26.82%, of their followers seem to be bots.
- Leicester City
Next on the list is Leicester City. While the East Midlands team’s overall Instagram following may be less than half of what Tottenham Hotspur boasts, coming in at just over seven million, there’s no shortage of enthusiasm among their loyal supporters.
However, in the realm of social media, it seems that Leicester City has encountered a sneaky opponent: bots. Nearly a third of their followers, totalling almost two and a half million, appear to be fake.
Eighth place goes to Everton, with another dramatic drop in follower count. Everton has just under three million Instagram followers, less than half of that of Leicester City. Of these, almost a third (29.66%) are fake, or in numerical form that’s 850 thousand followers.
- West Ham
West Ham United, landing in ninth place, stands shoulder to shoulder with Everton, boasting strikingly similar stats. The London club shines brightly on Instagram, boasting just shy of three million followers. However, as we dive into the depths of their follower count, we uncover an intriguing twist.
Among West Ham’s passionate online supporters, just over 800 thousand, making up a formidable 29.33%, reveal themselves to be none other than imposters.
- Aston Villa
In tenth place is Aston Villa. This iconic West Midlands team has more followers than West Ham or Everton, sitting at just over 2.9 million. Over 780 thousand of these followers, or 26.82%, appear to be bots or fake accounts.
Top 5 Premier League Clubs Whose Players Have Most Fake Followers
Chelsea already scored highly for the main club Instagram having many fake followers, but Chelsea once again scores highly for the number of team members that ended up on our list.
Chelsea is home to no less than 14 players who have a significant number of fake followers, including Benoît Badiashile, who has 134,394 fake followers, and Reece James who has 952,135.
In second place is Liverpool, who has also scored highly for fake follower counts. In terms of its players, 12 members of the Liverpool team have a high number of fake followers, including Diogo Jota who has 536,614.
- Manchester City
This time Manchester City takes the crown above local rivals Manchester United, with 11 members of the team having a high number of fake followers on Instagram. Of these, players include Nathan Aké with 492,990 and John Stones with 464,447.
- Manchester United
Would you believe it? Manchester United have turned up on this list too. Lagging behind Manchester City, just nine members of the club have a high number of fake followers. This includes Raphaël Varane with 6,028,602 and Luke Shaw with 1,183,823.
- Tottenham Hotspur
Finally, finishing off our top five, is Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs have eight teammates with a high number of fake followers. This includes the legendary Heung-min Son who has 2,688,595 false accounts following him.
The Players and Clubs Earning the Most from Fake Followers
Having a high number of followers doesn’t just make an account, whether it belongs to an individual or an institution, more relevant and popular. Brands will pay more money for sponsored posts from accounts with higher followings. The more followers, the more money to be made.
Read on to discover just which clubs, and which players, are making the most money from their fraudulent followers.
Players Earning the Most from Fake Followers
- Mohamed Salah
This isn’t the first time we’ve ranked Mo Salah number one, but it makes sense that the footballer with the most fake followers overall would be making the most money from them. Mo Salah earns around $68,000, or £54,839, for every (sponsored) Instagram post he shares. As just over 21% of his followers are fake, this means those fictitious followers are earning him $14,722 or £11,849 per sponsored post.
- Erling Haaland
Manchester City’s Golden Boy isn’t getting off scot-free here—he may have come third in regard to the number of fake followers he has, but he swoops into second place when it comes to earnings. As around 20% of his followers lack authenticity, Haaland’s fraudulent followers earn him around $10,909, or about £8,811, for every monetised post he shares.
- Kevin de Bruyne
Also hailing from the legendary Man City, Kevin Bruyne landed fourth when it came to the total number of fake followers on his social media accounts. In fact, over a quarter of his followers have been deemed to be fraudulent! So, it comes as no surprise that the midfielder could be earning a decent payday from them. We’ve found that De Bruyne earns around $10,429, or £8,389, from these fake followers on each sponsored post.
Moving on from ManCity, though staying in Manchester, Casemiro of Manchester United fame lands in fourth place. After coming in fifth place for the total number of fake followers, it’s logical that he would be making stacks of cash from them. Given that almost a quarter of his followers, at 20.18%, and that he earns somewhere between $23,000-£30,000 per post, it seems Casemiro could be earning around $7,274 or £5,935 per post just from his fake following.
- Heung-min Son
Departing Manchester entirely, in fifth place is Heung-min Son of Tottenham. Unlike the other members of this top five, Heun-min Son didn’t appear in our top ten for fake followers. In Heung-min’s case, while he might now have as many followers (fake or real) as the others, he does have a decently high percentage of fakers (22.14%). This, combined with his high average Insta-earnings, means that he could be earning around $6,996 or £5,631, per sponsored post.
Clubs Earning the Most from Fake Followers
- Manchester United
It was always going to be one of the Manchester teams in the top spot. You don’t garner so many devoted fans, and engage some of the world’s best players, without picking up a few bot accounts along the way. Around 22% of Manchester United’s substantial Instagram following, of over 61 million, is fake. In spite of, or perhaps thanks to, this, Manchester United earns between £30,000-£39,000 per sponsored post. This means they have an income per post of around $11,085, or £8,922, from their fake followers.
- Manchester City
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Manchester City follows on Manchester United’s coattails with the second-highest earnings from their fake Instagram followers. While ManCity has almost 20 million fewer followers overall than Manchester United, they have a surprisingly similar number of fake followers. Where United have over 13 million, Man City has over 10 million—that’s almost 25% of their total following. This results in Manchester City earning around $8,733, or £7,028 per post from these bot accounts.
Leaving Manchester, in third place we have Chelsea. Similarly to Manchester City, Chelsea has just shy of 10 million followers on Instagram, but almost a quarter of these are fake at 24.49%. Chelsea also has the highest number of players who have a statistically significant number of fake followers at 14, so it definitely seems like a trend. After all, Chelsea players did dominate the top five list for the percentage of fake followers. All of that taken into account, Chelsea earns around $7,616 or £6,130 from its fake followers per post.
Following just behind Chelsea is Liverpool, in fourth place. While Liverpool has a couple million more followers than Chelsea (42 million vs 39 million), Liverpool has fewer fake followers. But they still have plenty, with 22.51% of their following being fraudulent. Liverpool is set to earn between £20,000-£26,000 per sponsored post, with £5,943 of that due to fake followers.
In fifth place we have Arsenal. Premier League legends though they may be, Arsenal has significantly fewer followers overall than the other teams in this top five with just 26 million. Of these, an estimated 6 million are thought to be fake—that’s 24.63%. Thanks to this high number of bot accounts, Arsenal can earn between £12,000-£17,000 per post, of which £4,205 is down to the fake followers.
Why Would a Football Player Have Fake Instagram Followers?
Many celebrities, athletes, and influencers have some amount of fake followers across their social media profiles. They can appear for a few different reasons:
- Bot accounts posting spam links in comment sections of new posts to drive clicks.
- Paying for fake followers to make themselves seem more popular and to earn more money from brand endorsements.
Please note: SeatPick is making no accusations of why these footballers have fake followers, only that they do have them and how many they have.
- SeatPick wanted to find out which Premier League clubs and players potentially have the most fake followers.
- To do so, they sourced a list of the 100 top* Premier League players with the highest market value from transfermarkt.co.uk. The full list of Premier League clubs was sourced from premierleague.com.
- Each player’s and club’s Instagram account was analysed through Modash’s Instagram followers too to identify the estimated number of fake followers.
- All data was collected on 12 May 2023 and is correct as of then.
- All figures are estimations based on each account’s total followers and data procured from Modash.io and must be presented as such.