Every single athlete today has some form of social media. The main social media services used by athletes are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It has become an integral part of today's athlete as it helps the athlete easily connect with fans. Athletes also use social media to help expand and grow their brand. The superstar athletes usually have the most fans and followers due to their popularity and celebrity status.
The biggest social media service used is Facebook as it has over 1 billion users. Many athletes use Facebook to create a fan page. Sports teams also have fan pages on Facebook and some of them are also among the highest liked pages. For example, soccer is a huge sport overseas and it shows as one of the top Spanish soccer clubs Real Madrid has over 82 million Facebook likes. Some athletes have a fan page of over 1 million likes however the top athletes have the highest liked Facebook fan pages.
NBA Superstar Dwyane Wade is one of the top athletes who has over 11 million Facebook likes on his fan page. He is a famous player and many non-sports fans are aware of him due to his endorsements and his marriage to actress Gabrielle Union. Despite the high numbers, Dwayne Wade is not among the top 20 most liked athletes on Facebook.
Soccer is the dominating sport among the top twenty liked athletes as many popular and famous soccer stars are among the most liked athletes on Facebook. The 20 most liked athletes are listed below and it features many high profile athletes who have had incredible success in their playing career and became even more famous due to their endorsements and other interests.
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20 Roger Federer - 14.9 million likes
Roger Federer is a Swiss tennis player who is considered to be among the all time best tennis players ever. He has won a record setting 17 Grand Slam Championships and in 2012 tied Pete Sampras for the world no.1 ranking for 286 weeks after winning Wimbledon. He is also one of seven men to win all four majors and is also an Olympic gold and silver medalist. His success has made him a popular player and a famous one as well making Roger Federer the second most liked male tennis player on Facebook.
19 Rafael Nadal - 15 million likes
Rafael Nadal is a Spanish tennis player who at the age of 28 is already considered one of the best tennis players of all time. He is only the second man ever to achieve the Career Golden Slam - winning the French, Australian, US Opens; Wimbledon and the Olympic gold medal. He was the youngest player ever to achieve the feat. He is also the only male player to win 8 French Open titles. Rafael Nadal's major tennis success has made him a superstar and his many tennis fans on Facebook have made him the most liked male tennis player.
18 Maria Sharapova - 15.3 million likes
Continuing the trend of top tennis players, Maria Sharapova was a Russian female tennis player who is one of the most famous and well known tennis players. Her playing career started at the age of 14 and during her career has won many Grand Slam titles. She is one of 10 women to achieve a career Gland Slam and an Olympic silver medalist. Maria Sharapova has received major attention due to her beauty appeal which has led her to many commercial endorsements such as Nike and Tiffany & Co. Her tennis success, endorsements and popularity among tennis fans have set her apart and is the reason why on Facebook she is the most liked female tennis player.
17 David Villa Sánchez - 16 million likes
David Villa Sánchez is a Spanish professional soccer player who is soon set to play for the expansion New York City FC in the MLS. He is famous for being one of the key players of the Spanish team that won the 2008 European championships and the 2010 World Cup. During the 2008 European championships he was the top scorer and at the 2010 World Cup he earned the Silver Boot. He became a superstar when he became Spain's all time goal scorer with 59 goals in 97 international matches. He retired from international competition last year. His play has captured the hearts of many soccer fans around the world and as a result he is one of the many top liked soccer players on Facebook.
16 Usain Bolt - 16.6 million likes
Usain Bolt is the most famous sprinter on the planet, who rose to super stardom during the Olympics. Bolt is the most fastest man in the world who set world records in both 100 and 200 meters races during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the 2012 London Olympics he became the first man to win both gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters races in consecutive Olympics. He is the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympics. Due to his success he gained major endorsements such as Visa and Gatorade. In 2012, he appeared on Saturday Night Live. Bolt is idolized by his Jamaican fans and many casual fans have become fans of him as well and on Facebook he is the most liked track and field athlete by a landslide.
15 Gerard Piqué - 17.1 million likes
Gerard Piqué is another famous Spanish soccer player. He currently plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona and is a part of the national team. He was also one of the key players on the Spanish team that won the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European championship. In his professional playing career he has been a part of many winning teams at FC Barcelona. Gerard Piqué was a rising star but his popularity and status grew even more in his current relationship with pop star Shakira. Shakira is one of the top most liked musicians on Facebook and there is no denying that her fans helped Gerard Piqué become one of the top liked soccer players.
14 Kobe Bryant - 21.2 million Facebook likes
The longtime NBA superstar is widely regarded as one of the best NBA players of all time. The Los Angeles Laker has become one of the career leaders in points and is a 5 time NBA Champion. He is also a two time Olympic gold medalist. Kobe Bryant has become one of the most famous and well known athletes through his on court success and his many endorsements. He has millions of global fans who have made Bryant the third most liked NBA player on Facebook.
13 LeBron James - 22.6 million Facebook likes
LeBron James is another NBA superstar who has made the list and it's no surprise. The king of the Cavaliers is a four time NBA MVP and a two time NBA Champion. He is also a two time Olympic gold medalist. LeBron James has been famous since he was a teenager, establishing himself as the most dominant player in the NBA. As a result he has had many endorsements. He has been named as one of the most influential athletes by Forbes. James also has many business interests and has appeared on TV and on film. He is a very well known athlete even to those who have never watched a game of basketball. It's no surprise that he has the most likes on Facebook.
12 Andrés Iniesta - 24 million Facebook likes
Andrés Iniesta is currently playing for FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. Andrés Iniesta is the third Spanish national soccer team member to make the list. He rose to super stardom in the 2008 European championships and continued his success in the 2010 World Cup when he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands. He was named Player of the Tournament in the 2012 European championships. Also in 2012, he won the UEFA Player in Europe award ahead of stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Spanish soccer fans love their national team players and on Facebook Andrés Iniesta is the most liked Spanish soccer player.
11 Sachin Tendulkar - 24.7 million likes
Sachin Tendulkar is a former Indian cricket player who is considered to be one of the greatest batsmen. He started his cricket career at the age of 16 and became the youngest Test cricketer. In 2005, he became the first cricketer to score 35 centuries (100 runs in a single inning) in Test play. In 2007 Tendulkar reached another major milestone, becoming the first player to record 15,000 runs in one-day international play. He retired from cricket in 2011 after winning the World Cup. Given India's huge love affair with cricket it should be no surprise to see Sachin Tendulkar as the most liked cricket player on Facebook.
10 Michael Jordan - 27.8 million likes
Michael Jordan is an NBA legend who is widely considered to be the greatest player of all time. He was a five time NBA MVP and a six time NBA Champion. Michael Jordan was able to create a lasting legacy after his playing career ended as many future NBA players and basketball fans wanted to be like Michael Jordan. He was able to grow his fan base due to his massive basketball success and his many endorsements. He also created a successful signature shoe named "Air Jordan." He is also the majority owner of NBA's Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan is simply idolized by his millions of fans and sports fans worldwide. It seems fans still like Mike.
9 Mesut Özil - 27.9 million likes
Soccer players continue to dominate the list but for the first time the player is not Spanish. Mesut Özil is a German soccer player who plays for the English club Arsenal and the German national team. He emerged as a rising star during the 2010 World Cup where he helped Germany achieve a top three finish and earned a spot among 10 nominees for the Golden Ball award. He became a world champion this past summer when Germany won their fourth World Cup. He also enjoyed great success during the three years he spent at Spanish club Real Madrid.
8 Ronaldinho - 30.4 million likes
Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho continues to add on to the many soccer players on the list. He currently plays for the Mexican club Querétaro. He is known for being one of the greatest players of his generation and one of the best in history. He became a superstar as a member of Brazil's 2002 World Cup championship team and has won the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice. He has played for clubs in Brazil, France, Spain and Italy. Brazil's religion is soccer and Ronaldinho is the third most liked Brazilian soccer player.
7 Ricardo Kaká - 32.8 million likes
Another fellow Brazilian soccer player Ricardo Kaká continues soccer players' dominance on this list. He currently plays for MLS Orlando City SC. He along with Ronaldinho was a part of the Brazilian national team that won the World Cup in 2002. He became a superstar in 2007, when he was the top scorer for Italian club Milan and led his team to Champions League and World Cup titles. He won many awards in that year such as the European FootBaller of the Year, World Soccer Player of the year, FIFA World Cup Best Player, and FIFA World Player of the Year. He has many fans around the world Brazil and is the second most liked Brazilian soccer player on Facebook.
6 John Cena - 36.8 million likes
Hey, he may not play a professional sport, but he is an athlete. John Cena is a WWE wrestler who gained fame and stardom at WWE, as he has been the face of the company for the past decade. He is a 15-time world champion and constantly sells the most merchandise for the company. His good looks and sculpted body have earned him the title The Cenation leader increased his celebrity status, becoming even more popular when he starred in Hollywood films and in 2005 he recorded a rap album. John Cena's successful wrestling career along with his Hollywood aspirations has expanded his fan base. His global fan base has pushed him to become the second most liked wrestler on Facebook.
5 Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - 46.2 million likes
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is also another wrestler who became a star during his time at the WWE. He is known as "The Rock" and famously feuded with wrestler Steve Austin. He won the WWE title eight times. Dwayne Johnson was able to transcend his successful wrestling career, becoming a Hollywood actor. He has been in many films and his film career has also been a success. In fact, it has he was Hollywood's highest grossing actor at the box office last year.
Dwayne Johnson does return to wrestling sometimes and his latest match was at WrestleMania 29 in 2013. With a successful wrestling and film career Dwayne Johnson has increased his fan base so much that he is the most liked U.S. born athlete on Facebook.
4 Neymar - 51.9 million Facebook likes
The last of the Brazilian soccer players on the list is Neymar who is considered a soccer prodigy. He currently plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Brazilian national team. He rose to fame in 2009 when he made his senior debut for Santos and won the league's Best Young Player award. He emerged as a full-blown star in 2010, helping Santos claim the league and Copa do Brasil championships en route to the first of three straight scoring titles and four straight Player of the Year awards. That season he also made his debut for the senior national team and debuted a Mohawk-style haircut, which quickly became popular among younger fans. At 23 years old Neymar has already experienced great success with more to be expected which has attracted many soccer fans. His Facebook fan page has easily made him the most liked Brazilian soccer player ahead of all time great players in Ronaldinho and Ricardo Kaká.
3 David Beckham - 52 million likes
David Beckham is an English soccer legend who gained fame in 1997 when he was named the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year. A year later, he was one of the leading faces of England's World Cup team. He was the first English player to win titles in four countries (England, Spain, US and France).
David Beckham also rose to popularity when he married Victoria Adams known as "Posh Spice" from the Spice Girls. Aside from his successful playing career he had many endorsements thanks to his bravado and good looks. He was also one of the key players who helped make MLS (Major League Soccer) gain popularity in North America. David Beckham's ability to stay at the forefront like Michael Jordan has provided him with a huge fan base and it is the reason why he is the most liked English soccer player on Facebook.
2 Lionel Messi - 78.08 million Facebook likes
Lionel Messi needs no introduction, widely recognized for being one of the best players in soccer. He has won many championships and awards. In November 2014, he became the all time top scorer in La Liga and the all time goal scorer in UEFA Champions League. Lionel Messi has had incredible success and as a result has been the commercial face of soccer with endorsements from Adidas, Pepsi, EA Sports and Turkish Airways. Messi has grown his fan base around the world due to his excellent play and his many endorsements. His millions of Facebook fans are surpassed by only one other athlete; his main rival.
1 Cristiano Ronaldo - 107.1 million likes
Cristiano Ronaldo has already become a legend for Real Madrid and the Portugal national team. Cristiano Ronaldo is often ranked as the best in the world alongside Lionel Messi. He has won many championships and won many awards in his career. He set records while playing for both Manchester United and Real Madrid. His successful career along with his good looks has resulted in many endorsements with Nike, Samsung, Coca-Cola and many others. His business interests include fashion stores and clothing lines. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most well known athletes around the world and because of his marketability he has a massive global fan base. It's logical that the best player in the world's most popular sport would be the most liked athlete on Facebook.
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