Lionel Messi hits 300m Instagram followers, but he's still a long way behind Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi has produced some staggering numbers over the course of his career, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward hit a big one this week when he passed the mark of 300 million followers on Instagram.

The Argentina captain has won a record seven Ballon d'Or awards, scored more goals in LaLiga than anyone else while at Barcelona (474) and has hit the net a total of 758 times in senior matches for club and country, but none of the figures he has racked up on the pitch come close to his deep run into nine figures on his most-followed social media account.

Messi celebrated hitting the milestone on Wednesday with a "thank you" message featuring a collage of some of the 800-plus posts he's made on Instagram.

The 34-year-old's total continues to grow, and at the time of writing he has 304m followers who can keep updated with images of his family as they settle into their new life in Paris, postmatch pictures with his teammates and some slightly awkward promotional images and videos for his various sponsors.

Messi also has 105m followers on Facebook and almost 7m on Chinese network Weibo, while he has so far resisted opening an official Twitter account (which is probably for the best).

But it's to Instagram where most of Messi's fans have flocked, consolidating his position as easily the second-most followed soccer player on the platform. While there are no prizes for guessing who is No. 1, here's a look at the top five most-followed footballers on Instagram (totals correct at time of writing).

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5. Kylian Mbappe (65.3 million followers)

Messi's PSG teammate Mbappe is a relatively new entry into the top five, having passed Ronaldinho and left the former Brazil and Barcelona great (who also played for PSG during his career) languishing on 63.1m followers. The 2018 World Cup winner has recently used his account to chronicle his meeting with Spider-Man star Tom Holland, celebrate his place in EA Sports' FIFA 22 Team of the Year and also model a very eye-catching pair of sunglasses.

4. David Beckham (70.9m)

He may have called time on the professional game almost a decade ago following a short stint at PSG in 2013, but Beckham remains one of the biggest soccer stars on Instagram. The former England, Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy midfielder shares updates on his glamorous post-playing career as well as his cosy home life.

3. Neymar (169m)

The world's most expensive footballer is the third-most followed on Instagram, although he is only the fourth-most followed athlete overall: former India cricket captain Virat Kohli boasts 181m followers on his account. Neymar is using his account right now mainly to promote his new Netflix series as well as show off his winnings at the casino and some ape-based NFTs, although most recently he shared a picture of his surprise meeting with Kanye West.

2. Lionel Messi (304m)

Messi is not only No.2 when it comes to the highest follower count on Instagram, but his account is in fact the third-most followed on the whole platform: media personality and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner is just ahead of him on 306m. He is the fourth player in the top five to have an association with PSG, which surely cannot be a coincidence.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (395m)

Ronaldo can continue to sit comfortably on his throne as the most-followed person on the whole of Instagram, and it's not even close. The Portugal and Manchester United star has opened a gap between himself and Messi which is a third of his long-time rival's total. Ronaldo is also above Messi when it comes to the active men's players with the most career goals (803 to 758), but it's his social media output that we're interested in here.

Nobody does Instagram quite like Ronaldo. If he's not reminding us of his many, many, many career achievements or making high-concept endorsements for his many, many, many commercial partners then he is sharing pictures of his life with partner Georgina Rodriguez and his family or just hanging out with his shirt off.

The 36-year-old is enjoying a midseason break with his family in Dubai, which we expect to provide the backdrop for plenty more shirtless content that will send Ronaldo ever closer to the 400m mark.