Cristiano Ronaldo

Football fans’ loyalty no longer lies with clubs, but players

The world’s top footballers now have a bigger following than the clubs they play for. Fans are beginning to support superstar players as they move around from club to club rather than sticking with a team – and this threatens the very foundations of the sport. Devotion to a team – for centuries a (largely) peaceful way of channelling our tribalism – is disappearing Streaming and social media are largely to blame. After Pelé signed for the New York Cosmos in the mid-1970s, only 40,000 US football enthusiasts would flock to the old Giants’ stadium. Earlier this month when Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami in Florida, the club’s co-owner David