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Skysports.com picks out ten footballers who have embraced Twitter and are racking up followers
A social networking site can be a dangerous tool for a professional sportsman and many footballers have landed themselves in hot water for ill-advised posts on Twitter over the past 12 months.
Former Liverpool forward Ryan Babel became the first player to tweet his way to a Football Association charge for improper conduct in January following his infamous mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt.
Officials from various organisations have warned players to be careful about what they put out and a survey of managers would probably generate a low approval rating of the microblogging service.
However, there can be no doubt that Twitter has brought a new dimension to the game as it helps break down traditional barriers between fans, journalists and players.
Now that everyone has a platform to express themselves in 140 characters or less, we often gain more of an insight into the personalities of football's most famous stars than from a standard post-match interview, whilst also getting up-to-date, intriguing stories straight from the horse's mouth.
Here, skysports.com picks out ten footballers who have embraced Twitter and are racking up followers.
If you are an enthusiast of English football and Twitter, it is a safe bet you are part of the rioferdy5 'twitfam'. The Manchester United defender has well over a million followers and his popularity is growing by the day, for good reason. Happy to interact with fans, fellow professionals and other celebrities and comment on a wide range of topics, Ferdinand is both honest and humorous.
Another player with more than a million followers, Fabregas is a big fan of Twitter and will constantly update supporters on all his movements. Over the past few months he has engaged in banter with Arsenal team-mates, criticised referees for perceived inconsistency and revealed injury news, so there will be a lot of interest in his page throughout the rest of the summer to see what he has to say about his future, with speculation continuing over a switch to Barcelona.
Not only is he one of the rising stars of the game, Wilshere is also extremely popular on Twitter and is giving Fabregas a run for his money in the battle of the bloggers at Emirates Stadium. While some of his general remarks about subjects like going to sleep may only have limited appeal, the 19-year-old midfielder does share some very interesting opinions and is not afraid to describe exactly how he feels after matches.
Scrutinised in the newspapers for every step he takes, it is no surprise that Rooney has revelled in the opportunity to use Twitter and let the world know what his real views are. The Manchester United striker's passion for football is always evident on the pitch and this is reflected in what he writes, while he has also made headlines of his own by posting the first pictures of his much-publicised hair transplant.
The most articulate footballer on Twitter, according to the results of a recent language analysis, Neville uses a vocabulary that is more expansive than other players to communicate with his followers. The versatile Everton player, 34, can be very droll with his remarks and some of the joshing he has had with team-mates, notably Seamus Coleman, makes for a funny read.
Cole has gained something of a cult following on Twitter due to his honesty and humour, but he has cut down over the past couple of months after going too far. The West Ham striker was given an improper conduct charge earlier this year after making a joke about Ghana supporters during the friendly international against England. He apologised for the remark and admitted he was out of line, and the incident highlighted how important it is for players to set the right example.
The third Manchester United man in our countdown, Owen has taken to Twitter with relish as he interacts with supporters about football and life away from the pitch. Respectful of his followers but ready to stand up for himself if criticised, the striker comes across as a strong but likeable character.
The Newcastle midfielder's future has been the topic of intense transfer speculation this summer after it emerged that talks over a contract extension had broken down, but he has made it known that any developments will be revealed first on his Twitter page, if not by the club. Even players that appear quiet can be fairly outspoken on Twitter, so it is perhaps no surprise that Barton likes to get involved and share some provocative viewpoints.
To finish we have two players from outside the Premier League who are officially the most followed footballers on Twitter in the world. Not all their comments might be in English but they are still worth keeping track of, particularly our No.1, Brazilian maestro Kaka. The Real Madrid man regularly updates his page and is closing in on five million followers.
He may trail team-mate Kaka by more than a million fans but Ronaldo still has a following that is the envy of every other professional footballer. The Portuguese forward loves to keep his supporters entertained and, apart from the usual messages, he puts up a lot of photos and poses brain teasers.
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