Football is a huge game, watched by millions the world over, and it has an enormous sporting and social impact. However, it is not always the very best players who are the most powerful footballers in the world.

Some influence the game because of their actions on the pitch, others because of their lives off it; some combine the two. But everyone on this list has won millions of fans hearts, that only one word from them can change much.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

Self-described as the “best player in history,” Ronaldo is sure of his place in the game. That singular focus and confidence made him the player he is today. Being the most followed athlete on earth, he is also the world’s most marketable athlete, pulling in over $1 billion from sponsorships.

4. Lionel Messi

Characterising the nature of Messi’s influence and power is difficult because it’s rather implied: like the value of Michael Jordan to the NBA in the 1990s, or Joe Namath to the post-merger NFL.

While his influence doesn’t necessarily come from any formalized power, his inarguable excellence (and brand neutrality) helps to set the generational tone of the game itself. A simple image reflecting his power was pictured in him canceling the friendly of Argentina against Israel prior to this year’s world cup.

3. David Beckham

David Beckham has been an international icon for the best part of 15 years, and he’s used his fame and good looks to breach the market and sell himself as a business, a brand.

The mind boggles at just how many people have followed David Beckham throughout his career at one stage or another. Both on and off the pitch he has been an ambassador, and a successful one, to an entire range of organizations.

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