In a new report published by The Alan Turing Institute, Cristiano Ronaldo was named as the most abused player on Twitter, followed by his Manchester United colleague Harry Maguire. Between August 2021 to January 2022, Ronaldo received 12,520 abusive messages, while Maguire’s name was found in almost 9000 derogatory tweets. 

Despite being the leading goal-scorer for the club, Ronaldo has been incessantly criticized for making the team worse. A season before Ronaldo’s arrival, Manchester United scored 122 goals and finished second in the points table. But last season they netted only 70 goals across competition and failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Maguire’s defensive lapses in the game have made him the trolls’ favorite. Often the video of his errors with squeaky audio in the background, or his distorted image in animated form goes around on the internet. Maguire’s apology post after a crushing home defeat to Manchester United alone had over 2900 abusive tweets. 

Marcus Rashford, another United player, is third on the list. Rashford has had an underwhelming campaign last year, and his every failure on the field was ridiculed and dissected on social media. He is also ridiculed for his involvement in a social cause and is asked to stick to sports. 

The machine learning tool analyzed over 2.3 million tweets and detected abusive language towards footballers in over 2.6% of the tweets. More than 8% of these tweets attacked players on the basis of their cultural, ethnic, and sexual identities. 

Last year when England lost to Italy in the Euro Cup finals, the players of non-English origin – Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, and Jadon Sancho – were singled out and trolled. 

Moreover, the report found close to 70% of the players who play in the upper tier of the EPL have been abused at least once. The list is dominated by Manchester United players, including Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Jesse Lingard, and Paul Pogba. Jack Grealish and Harry Kane were the only two players from the other clubs in the top ten.

“These findings shed light on a dark side to the beautiful game. Online abuse has no place in sport, nor in wider society, and tackling it requires a team effort. Social media firms needn’t wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users,” Kevin Bakhurst Bakhurst, who oversaw this research, said.

Lead Image: Cristiano Ronaldo/Twitter