Twitter the squid! Predicting the next Ballon d’Or with Twitter

On 29 October 2013, the FIFA Football Committee and a group of experts from France Football announced a shorlist of 23 players who could win the  FIFA Ballon d’Or.Although not all of them are active twitter users, they are all often tweeted about. But is the noise made by the “twittosphere” about a player a good enough indicator for the next Ballon d’Or.

Out of this list we have taken the 4 players that were the most likely to win the Ballon d’Or (Actually we could have picked just 3 but being from Paris selecting Ibrahimovic was just too tempting :-) ). We had little doubt that our selection would include the top three finalists and we got the confirmation today.

So our study was based on those four players:


  • Lionel Messi ARG ARG
  • Cristiano Ronaldo POR POR
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic SWE SWE
  • Franck Ribery FRA FRA

To get the data,  we have first created a php script scanning Twitter continuously to grab all tweets related to the four selected players. The script is obviously using the wonderful Twitter API  as well as the Phirehose php library.

We have run the script and gather the data on two occasions :

  • Last World Cup play-off week (Nov. 13th to Nov. 20th)
  • A championship Week-End (Nov. 29th to Dec. 2nd)

We have recorded 4 483 415 tweets in ten days. After the usual formatting of the data (thanks to a few SQL queries), we have obtained the following charts (using datawrapper ).

We have noticed two peaks during the two play-off match when Ronaldo scored four goals with Portugal and Zlatan two with Sweden. We also have noticed that Messi stayed on top even if he wasn’t playing. Ribery seems to be a bit off, like the French football team one might say.

The chart above presents the same data but using a bar chart this time. Chart bars change with the timescale bar.

In a normal championship week-end , Ronaldo and Messi outclass Zlatan and Ribery. But the minute Messi enters the field an explosion of tweets occur, even without scoring any goal and with his team losing the game. He thus has reached more than 26 000 tweets in one hour, the official record of the week end.

So to conclude, it seems  it, once again, will be a close call between Messi and Ronaldo. Ribery seems to be out of the game. If Zlatan has made it to the top 3, he could have been an outsider but…

Rendez-vous for the final result at the Zurich Kongresshaus on 13 January 2014 ! We’ll then see can be the next “Paul the squid“.

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