Who’s the most in-demand player at the football World Cup?

  • Brand Protection
Who’s the most in-demand player at the football World Cup?

Football is a lucrative business and a prime target for counterfeiters, find out which players are being targeted and who leads the way in our counterfeiters league table

Famous upsets, spectacular hat tricks, dramatic late winners, and football’s biggest stars shining, the World Cup is well and truly in full swing. Over the course of the tournament, Corsearch is going to delve into the murky world beneath the glamour of the tournament, exploring everything from illegal 3D printing, to the impact on counterfeited shirts when underdog teams shine and identifying large networks of counterfeiters.

To begin with we’ll be looking into the problem of the unauthorized usage of players’ commercial rights and association with these counterfeit products. We have looked at the most popular player for each country and the prevalence of illicit usage of their reputation, compiling a leaderboard of the most popular. Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo may be lighting the tournament up with his goals he may be disappointed with the results of our findings!


To compile this data we used Corsearch’s Brand Protection Platform, scanning over 200 online marketplaces for offers of counterfeit football shirts, and then facilitating an estimation of a broad variety of metrics surrounding the IP infringement issue.

Top of the leaderboard

Leading the way at the top of our leaderboard are two South American superstars, Neymar takes top spot with an estimated 8,557 offers (or roughly 20million shirts) he is closely followed by Lionel Messi with 8,052. Their popularity both in their own countries and around the world proving a huge target for counterfeiters. Rounding off the top 3 is France’s lethal finisher, Antoine Griezmann with 7,000.

Ronaldo in fact doesn’t make the top 5, coming in at 6th place, behind Mexico’s Javier Hernandez and James Rodriguez of Colombia, their iconic statuses within their nations and their countries larger populations rocketing them up the leaderboard. Lagging back in tenth place is England skipper Harry Kane with 1,990, however, a few more performances like we saw on Monday night could see him rising. At the bottom end of the table, we see Kane’s vanquished foes from Monday evening, Tunisia, whose star player has a minuscule 29.

Captain Tsubasa leads the way in Asia

Outside of Europe and South America, Japan’s Shinji Kagawa is top of the list, although he actually finds himself behind the fictional character, Captain Tsubasa! Captain Tsubasa was the subject of a very exclusive limited edition run of jerseys by Adidas and this fictional superstar is proving more popular than any other Asian player in the counterfeiting world.

Making sense from the numbers

Some of these results may seem surprising, but it needs to be remembered that these numbers may reflect more closely the popularity of teams, not players. When we look at all the counterfeited shirts being sold for each country, and the percentage of this total that their number one seller has on the market, Neymar, Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, sit tenth, eleventh and twelfth respectively, each accounting for around 50% of their countries shirts. Columbia’s James Rodriguez is the most exposed player appearing on 70% of Colombia’s jerseys.

This demonstrates the pulling power that high-profile individuals can have on sales and marketing strategies, whether authorized or not. It is key insights like this that allow Corsearch to combat illicit activity in an effective and dynamic way.

This blog was originally published on the Incopro website. Incopro was acquired by Corsearch in 2021, with the two organizations combining their technology and expertise to better serve the market.