Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar left unverified on Twitter Blue, but Real Madrid pay up for players

As you may well have heard, thousands of A-list celebrities, sportspeople and other notable figures have been forced to surrender their Twitter verified status this week after the "blue tick" mark was removed -- unless it's paid for.

But while Real Madrid have paid top dollar to show their stars' accounts are genuine, Barcelona have shunned the new pay-for-a-tick scheme.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has revamped the site's verified status, and those who are unwilling to pay his new $8-a-month subscription fee will now have an account just like any regular user on the platform.

Plenty of high-profile footballers have already seen their ticks disappear. However others have maintained their blue tick stature, at least for the time being -- though not necessarily paying for it themselves.

While everybody from Bill Gates to Kim Kardashian to the pope had their ticks taken away as part of the sitewide cull, a slightly odd turn of events saw three celebrities -- all of whom had been vocal in their criticism of the Twitter Blue scheme -- get their subscriptions paid for by Musk himself.

The most prominent example is NBA superstar LeBron James, who previously greeted news of an imminent subscription fee by announcing to his 52 million followers that he had zero intention of stumping up $8 every month to keep his tick.

This led Twitter's under-fire CEO to reveal this week that he would be fitting James' bill personally to keep the basketball legend on the site, along with veteran actor William Shatner and author Stephen King. Not an everyday trio of celebrities you would put together.

As far as footballers are concerned, it doesn't appear that Musk has been willing to pay for any players to maintain their status, though a few significant names have obviously signed up to the service in order to protect their verified accounts.

Cristiano Ronaldo is comfortably the most followed sportsperson on Twitter with a fanbase of around 108.3 million, but even the Portuguese star has seen his verified status vanish into the ether.

While Lionel Messi doesn't have a personal Twitter account, his official "Team Messi" profile has also seen the tick removed.

But the world's most followed football club, Real Madrid (47.3 million followers) have matched the UEFA Champions League (47 million) in retaining their gold check mark, which denotes a verified business account.

That means Real Madrid are paying Twitter an incredible $1,000-a-month (plus tax) to be, well, the real deal. Only in Spanish, however. They are not so flush as to pay for a gold tick for their official English, Arabic, French, Japanese or Portuguese Twitter feeds.

They can pay another $50-a-month for every individual they want to keep their blue tick. And it seems Los Blancos don't want any imposters trying to claim they play for them -- because they are paying that $50-a-month fee for every player to keep their blue ticks -- as shown by Karim Benzema's account.

Not the case for Barcelona (46.9 million), as their account has become unverified overnight.

And yep, that means all their star players are now sans tick.

Neymar, the second most followed footballer on Twitter (62 million) behind Ronaldo, has rejoined the masses by becoming an unverified profile.

As one of football's most active Twitter users, former England striker Gary Lineker, confirmed that he would be maintaining his Twitter Blue account but only in order to preserve access to the "Edit Tweet" function that comes with the service.

In the Premier League, several players commented on losing their ticks with Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez adopting a philosophical approach to his abrupt change of status.

Many of Mahrez's City teammates suffered the same fate with the likes of Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne losing their ticks in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile, his position as the most-followed Premier League player on Twitter (18.2 million) didn't seem to warrant Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah subscribing to Blue.

Chelsea forward Mason Mount went one step further by quitting Twitter entirely on Thursday in reaction to the changes being made to the platform by Musk.

Only time will tell whether others start to follow suit.