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How long before the majority of football fans support players rather than clubs?

As the game becomes increasingly global, fan culture may change drastically

This idea will cause many to shudder in repulsion.

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It’s not inconceivable that football fan culture may experience a paradigm shift that would change the way the sport is consumed drastically.

What if, in a few years’ time, fans supported players rather than teams?

A decade ago this notion may have been dismissed outright.

But Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s duopoly has changed the game.

It’s funny what ten Ballon d’Ors can do

It’s funny what ten Ballon d’Ors can do

Prior to the former’s recent transfer to Juventus, the five-time Ballon d’Or winners were the respective figureheads for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The La Liga rivals are two of the most globally supported sports teams and the outrageous talent of their best players led to widespread tribalism.

But El Clasico has nothing on Messi v Ronaldo.

Real Madrid and Juventus have a combined 74.5 million followers on Instagram.

Ronaldo has 137 million.

Barcelona have 58.2 million followers.

Messi has 97.3 million.

While the clubs would never admit it, these players, with their near-mythical legacies, are bigger than their employers.

It is difficult to measure the number of fans who have already switched their allegiance from Real Madrid to Juventus since Ronaldo’s transfer.

The Italian club have benefited from a significant spike in social media engagement since the announcement.

The Old Lady are on course for a record year in terms of shirt sales and Serie A viewing figures are expected to skyrocket.

Ronaldo’s gravity can not be underestimated.

More than a club

Getty - Contributor
More than a club

Is it so ridiculous then, to imagine a future in which fans align themselves with certain players over a single club?

Such supporters would behave in a similar manner to the current generation; cheering on the team, relishing in a rival’s misfortune.

It’s just that the focus would be on a specific player and if they moved on, the fan would follow.

Such a trend is likely to occur for top-level individuals only — maybe just those who are universally considered to be in the top ten or twenty players at the time.

Man United have fans all over the world, but could his fandom also apply to specific players

PA:Press Association
Man United have fans all over the world, but could his fandom also apply to specific players

Those who support their team because it is their local club, or a family tradition, are unlikely to sever semantic ties.

But as football increases its global reach and profile, those who live in countries deprived of a notable league will continue to follow the top European leagues.

These fans are no less passionate about the game but they are perhaps more inclined to feel attached to certain players, rather than the abstract concept of a club.

The future of football

Getty - Contributor
The future of football

Think about it, rather than supporting Real Madrid, you decide to follow Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappe.

You celebrate when they win, commiserate when they lose, you buy shirts with their name on the back.

And when they retire you simply move on to the next one.

It’s a concept that will disgust some, but it could happen.

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