Real Madrid beat Barcelona in social media Clasico; Cristiano Ronaldo rules

Ahead of Saturday's clash at the Bernabeu, visitors Barcelona hold an 11 point lead in the La Liga table, however research by ESPN FC and KPMG's Football Benchmark group over the last six months has found hosts Real Madrid have a clear advantage in the "social media Clasico."

Who are the most followed players?

Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed player from either side, but is also the world's most followed footballer and most followed athlete in any sport. He reaches a total of 305.4 million followers across Facebook (122.6 million), Twitter (65.8m) and Instagram (117m), who get regular glimpses into his personal life as well marketing for his many products.

Long-term rival Lionel Messi doesn't match up. He has just over half the total followers of Ronaldo (173.9m), with a lower presence on Facebook (89.4m) and Instagram (84.5m). Messi doesn't even have a personal Twitter account, while the Adidas-run @teammessi account has just 2.36m followers.

What are their most popular posts?

Ronaldo's most liked social media posts of the last six months were photos announcing the arrival of new twin babies last June which got 4.6m likes on Facebook and 8.3m likes on Instagram.

His biggest impact tweet was a photo with his partner Georgina with their new child in November.

Messi's most popular recent posts have not been club related either. A Facebook message (1.1m) marking Argentina's qualification for World Cup 2018 got the most likes.

A photo of the player and wife Antonella on holiday last summer got 5m likes on Instagram.

Vacaciones !!!! Nada más lindo que vos .. te amo

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on

How about the teams as a whole?

Ronaldo's dominance helps Real Madrid's squad to a total of 689m social media followers across the three main platforms -- Facebook (266m), Twitter (138m) and Instagram (285m).

Added together the Barcelona squad lag quite a way behind with 473m in total -- Facebook (191m), Twitter (73m) and Instagram (209m).

Real Madrid are also out in front in the official team accounts, where they have a total of 208.8 million followers -- Facebook (106m), Twitter (46m), Instagram (54m), YouTube (2.6m).

The battle is closer here though, as that just edges out Barcelona's total of 207.8m - Facebook (103m), Twitter (48m), Instagram (53m), YouTube (3.4m).

What about the rest of the squad?

Injury may have hampered Gareth Bale's on pitch action for Madrid recently, but the Wales international has kept contributing via social media, where he remains his club's second most popular player (76.7m followers in total), followed by club captain Sergio Ramos (69m) and centre-forward Karim Benzema (51m).

In descending order of popularity at Real then comes Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Isco, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, Keylor Navas, Lucas Vazquez, Nacho Fernandez, Marco Asensio, Casemiro, Mateo Kovacic and finally Dani Carvajal. Carvajal may be the world's top right-back (per ESPNFC's Top 100) but he must up his social media game, with the Spain international not even having an Instagram account yet.

At Barcelona, captain Andres Iniesta is his club's second most followed -- (67.7m in total), next up is Luis Suarez (56m). Despite his much talked about social media use Gerard Pique is surprisingly down in fourth (50m); then come Javier Mascherano, Arda Turan, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Rafinha, Sergi Roberto, Thomas Vermaelen, Paulinho, Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti.

Last of all is Sergio Busquets, a key first-team player and serial trophy winner, but who has no Twitter account and just 3.7m followers between Facebook and Instagram.

Barcelona miss Neymar, don't they?

Yes. Barcelona were clearly impacted severely by the departure of social media expert Neymar to PSG in a €222m deal last summer. The squad lost the Brazilian's strength on Instagram (86m), Facebook (60m) and Twitter (36.2m) -- numbers which not even Messi himself can match. His replacement Dembele, currently injured, has room for improvement with just 4.8m followers across all three platforms.

What were the teams' best posts?

The Bernabeu outfit's most impactful photos this year came when celebrating their Champions League final victory over Juventus last June -- Facebook (1.6m likes) and Twitter (154k interactions).

Real's most popular Instagram post was one of Ronaldo receiving his fifth Ballon d'Or in early December (2.6m likes).

Messi being awarded last season's Golden Boot was Barca's most liked Instagram post (1.9m likes) of the last six months.

A tweet in the wake of August's terrorist attack in the Catalan capital gained the most attention on Twitter (127,000 interactions), and a nondescript photo of the club crest was their most popular Facebook post (641k likes)

Where are their followers based?

A geographical analysis of the Facebook engagement numbers also throws up some surprises and also explains the Asia-friendly 1p.m. local time kick off on Saturday. Both clubs get most likes from supporters in Indonesia, where 10.04m Madrid fans have given Facebook likes, just ahead of 9.96m from Barcelona.

The Facebook numbers also show the global nature of both clubs' fanbases.

Mexico (6.5m) is No. 2 on Madrid's engagement list, followed by Brazil (5.7m), Egypt (5.2m) and Colombia (4.3m). The U.S. comes in at eighth on the list (3.3m), with Spain down in 11th (2.8m). Incredibly Iraq in 14th (2.1m) has generated more likes than any European country; England and Portugal do not even make it into the top 16.

Mexico are also second for Barca (6.3m), again followed by Brazil (6.2m), before India (4.13m) and Bangladesh (4.07m). The U.S. is 7th on Barca's list, with Messi's Argentina 10th (2.5m), and Spain 14th (2.3m).

All of which goes to show the truly global nature of El Clasico. Real Madrid are winning the social media war, but that will count for little if they can't beat their rivals on the pitch on Saturday.