Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar... Kohli

Take out football's three global superstars, and the most followed active athlete on Facebook, the world's largest online social network, is Virat Kohli. Kohli's name may not be as recognised as a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi worldwide, but his immense popularity in India - the country with the highest number of Facebook users - slots him just outside the top ten on the latest World Fame 100, ESPN's annual list of the most famous athletes.

Nine cricketers are among the 11 Indian athletes on the list, the most for a country in the World Fame 100 after USA (31), with Brazil's six making it third. Among sports, cricket comes in fourth - AB de Villiers the lone non-Indian at 99 - after football (33), basketball (13) and tennis (12).

The formula to derive the World Fame 100 takes into account three factors: 1. Google Trends score 2. Endorsement earnings 3. Social media following

While India's cricket stars in general lag behind their global counterparts when it comes to endorsement figures and search scores, they more than make up with their social media following: if that's the only factor taken into account, eight of them would be in the top 50. With India among the leading users of the "Big Three" social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and cricket by far the leading sport in the country, many stars have tapped social media to further their popularity. As a result, Yuvraj Singh (57) comes ahead of four-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton (68), while Harbhajan Singh (80) and Gautam Gambhir (83) are above football stars Robert Lewandowski (84) and Eden Hazard (85).

In March this year, as part of the first Instagram Awards in India, Virat Kohli was awarded the "Most Engaged Account" for 2017 - his Instagram account generating the most cumulative likes and comments on posts in 2017.

While the Fame 100 already sees cricketers ranked higher than some illustrious peers from other sports, the lower endorsement values do mean a top five spot is difficult - Kohli was at No. 8 in 2016. However, there's scope for Kohli to move up. The only younger athlete than Kohli, 29, in the top ten is 26-year-old Neymar, and some big names could be on their way out.

Can social media take Kohli to the top, alongside Ronaldo and Messi? Leaving aside higher endorsement money and search scores, a doubling of his Facebook followers (approx 36m), or getting triple the number of his current following (approx 25m) on Twitter, should see Kohli move into the top five. For that to happen, he would need to break new ground for the most followed Indian celebrity on social media - no one has yet touched the 50m mark on Facebook or Twitter.

Playing on social

Among the most popular topics on social media in the past year was Kohli's wedding to actor Anushka Sharma. A private wedding ceremony, held outside India, captured the attention of millions back home. And the couple celebrated with the world with posts on social media.

Today we have promised each other to be bound in love for ever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you.This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey.

A post shared by Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli) on

A team-mate (and another on the World Fame 100) didn't shy from offering advice.

Looking further at India's most engaging Instagram account of 2017: here's three from the World Fame 100 in one photo.

Another one from the celebrations!

A post shared by Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli) on

At times, it's the players who need to stay out of the frame.

The new BFF in town!! Gracia and Ziva����Currently busy looking at last night's match highlights on their tablets�� #DigitalWorld #TwoLittlePrincess #IPL2018

A post shared by Suresh Raina (@sureshraina3) on

Sometimes social media can a bit unreal.

Sometimes it's your favourite star getting down to real-life duties.

Game over, had a nice sleep now back to Daddy's duties

A post shared by M S Dhoni (@mahi7781) on

The IPL auction earlier this year saw players taking to Twitter to embrace their new teams.

And here's wrapping up with Kohli, celebrating the effort of another World Fame 100 lister.