Cristiano Ronaldo's €100 million (R1.53 billion) move from LaLiga giants Real Madrid to Juventus has resulted in a surge in popularity for the Serie A outfit in the world's second-biggest economy, China.
Despite being accused of rape and being handed a two-year suspended prison after being found guilty of tax fraud, the 34-year-old's fan base has seemingly not dwindled.
According to AFP, Juventus' popularity has increased nearly 70% by one measure in a nation where football is on the rise, with football teams across the globe scrambling in a bid to make their presence known.
In analysing the data from Ronaldo's move to Juventus, chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci suggested that the superstar is likely to enjoy even more support in China due to the nature of the Asian country's "icon market".
"It's beyond football," he was quoted as telling AFP in an email.
"Ronaldo's success in China is not simply connected to his performance on the pitch and achievements over the years.
"Players have a stronger influence on (Chinese) fans than teams.
"As a matter of fact, fans online have become increasingly interested in individuals, as players have almost 30% more combined followers than their clubs."
According to Shanghai-based digital marketing firm Mailman, Ronaldo's departure from Madrid resulted in the UEFA Champions League winners suffering a net reduction of about 8 000 followers.
Despite Real's reported loss in followers, the LaLiga giants remain at the summit of the list of the most popular football clubs online in China, according to Mailman's 2019 "Red Card" report.
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