Debunking “The Messi Effect”

August 17th, 2021 by

Lionel Messi joined Barcelona FC in 2000 at age 13. In his time at Barcelona, he has won 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. After 21 years with the club, it was announced on 5th August that he was not able to sign a new contract due to La Liga regulations and Barcelona FC’s insecure financial situation. 

Since this news was released, rumours about possible transfers started surfacing across social media, but the general consensus was that Messi was to move to Paris Saint-Germain. On 8th August, Messi held a press conference at the Camp Nou to formally bid farewell to Barcelona. Within the conference, Messi claimed the possibility of a transfer to PSG or other clubs had not yet been finalised.  

On 10th August, PSG officially announced the signing of Messi on a two-year contract.

As a result of this announcement, social media went crazy. There have been multiple posts floating around the internet detailing “The Messi Effect”, showing how Messi’s transfer resulted in PSG’s follower count doubling and earning 20 million new followers. But how much of this is true?

Debunking The Messi Effect

Firstly, we need to see how many followers PSG had before the news about Messi leaving Barcelona surfaced. According to Social Blade and Klear, PSG already had over 37,653,000 followers on 4th August—the day before it was revealed Messi would leave Barcelona. This is already very different from the claimed 19 million followers in some viral social media posts. 

From 5th August, there began to be a steady increase in new daily followers, with over 117,000 new followers on the 5th and 335,000 on the 6th. The number of new followers increases more between the 7th and 8th of August with over 592,000 combined. Following Messi’s conference on the 8th and PSG-contract speculation, there were 1,619,000 new followers on 9th August. 

On 10th August, PSG announced Messi’s two-year contract; this is where there is a sharp spike in new followers for PSG’s Instagram account. New daily followers jumped from 1.6 million on the 9th to over 2,803,000 on announcement day. From then, the new follower count only continued to rise. 

On 11th August there were over 401,000 new followers; on 12th August 1,301,000 new followers; on the 13th, 332,000 new followers; and on the 15th, there were over 463,000 new followers. This means PSG now has over 47,536,000 followers on Instagram. 

Graph depicting PSG’s follower growth by Klear

Graph depicting PSG’s follower growth by Klear

Some quick maths can deduce that Messi’s signing resulted in just under 10 million new followers for the French football club. This is even more impressive when the club’s total new follower count was 10.4M between 17th July and 16th August. So, while that might not be the claimed doubling or 20 million new followers, it’s still a hefty increase in followers thanks to Messi himself. 

It’s also not surprising that Messi’s follower count has also increased dramatically since the announcement of his move. Since 4th August, Messi has gained over 9,730,000 new followers on his own account—that’s an average of 748,400 new followers every day. He’s now the 7th most followed person on Instagram.

Messi vs Ronaldo: Who had the biggest impact on social media?

Messi’s move to PSG is the most discussed football transfer since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Juventus from Real Madrid in 2018.

Ronaldo’s €100M move to Juventus also caused a huge stir on social media as a result of Ronaldo’s loyal fanbase. Juventus reaped the rewards of new followers, while Real Madrid suffered the losses. 

Juventus gained followers in the rumour mill before Ronaldo’s official move, and even more following the announcement. On the club’s main and English Twitter pages, there were more than 400,000 new followers. The Juventus Facebook account also saw an increase of 400,000 new fans, and the Juventus Instagram saw over 1.4 million new followers. 

What’s more interesting is that Real Madrid’s Twitter account reportedly lost 1 million followers as a result of the move. However, in the big picture, this doesn’t even qualify as a dent in Real Madrid’s mega following. 

When comparing the impact of the two transfers, the first thing to note is that Barcelona’s follower count has continued to increase—while the club will have surely lost some followers, the total wasn’t enough to tip the scales into the negatives. 

However, while Ronaldo’s 1.4 million fans followed Juventus as a result of his move, Messi’s fans also followed him to PSG… all 9-something-million of them. That’s a fair few more than 1.4 million. 

The Messi Effect: Fact or False?

Messi’s move to PSG has had a huge influence over social media users and follower counts. With just under 10 million new followers on each PSG’s and Messi’s own Instagram accounts, the Messi Effect has well and truly made its mark on social media. 

It may not be the follower-doubling or 20 million PSG followers floating around clickbait social media posts, but it is safe to say that hiring Messi is a guaranteed method of building your social media following. 

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