Worrying signs for Man Utd, Premier League as global coverage wanes
The Premier League still boasts the greatest star power in the game - though there must be concerns over the latest media research results from this month's FIFA Ballon d'Or.
The University of Navarra's famed football media study put together by the Economics, Sport and Intangibles Research Group has just released their findings from the Ballon d'Or nominations, which took into account not only player nominations, but also their media value across the globe - with greater focus on their achievements in the World Cup rather than club form.
Worrying for Premier League marketing men is that no player from the world's top competition made the top ten, with Spain's La Liga representatives dominating.
By the ESI's findings, Barcelona star Lionel Messi is still the winner - but Wesley Sneijder, the Inter Milan midfielder, would have made the final three instead of being snubbed by the final nominees list:
Interestingly, ESI's measurements stack up well against the common complaint of Messi's Ballon d'Or triumph after his poor World Cup. If the prize had been awarded purely on media value from South Africa 2010, Messi would have finished in fifth place by ESI's reckoning.
Ballon d'Or voting by media analysis:
1) Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
2) Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
3) Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)
4) Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
5) David Villa (Barcelona)
6) Xavi (Barcelona)
7) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
8) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
9) Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)
10) Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich)
ESI's much anticipated last paper released on the media value of players covered the entire 2009/10 season.
Most popular players by media value for season 2009/10
1) Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
2) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
3) Kaka (Real Madrid)
4) Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
5) Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
6) Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
7) Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
8) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan/Barcelona)
9) Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
10) Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
For all of Manchester United's popularity, it was found that only Wayne Rooney made the top 20 most popular players last season. Barcelona had the most with four, while Real Madrid and Chelsea (Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry) had three apiece.
The failure to collect major silverware last season also appeared to hurt United's global media coverage.
The Red Devils were only the sixth most reported on club last season - though the Premier League again dominated the top ten.
Most popular clubs by media value for season 2009/10
With Messi now the most popular player in the game and Barca the most reported on club, it's little surprise the Spanish giants were able to secure their world record €150 million shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation.
What ESI's findings do show is that the Premier League face a battle to maintain their global popularity - and their position to demand top dollar in sports sponsorship.