ESPN Fame 100: Predicting the UK's Top 10 of 2023

As ESPN reveals its 2018 World Fame 100 index, we have a punt at whose star will be shining brightest in the UK in five years' time.

The index is judged on three parameters: the athlete's social media following, their Google Trend score and the money generated through endorsements. Cristiano Ronaldo was crowned global leader for the third year running, while the top UK sportsman was Rory McIlroy, who finished 15th overall.

So as we attempt to judge the trajectory of sports, money and individuals, here is our top 10 for 2023, alongside some possible bolters or wildcards.

10. Toni Duggan (Football)

A look at FC Barcelona Femeni's 2017-18 team sees a familiar cocktail of nationalities: while it is dominated by Spanish players, others from Denmark, Netherlands, France, Brazil and Montenegro also feature. And then there's England's Duggan. When she signed for Barcelona she was the first English player to do so since Gary Lineker in the 1980s. Having won just about everything on offer in England with Everton and Manchester City, she was tempted to the Primera Division, where Barca finished second to Atletico Madrid this season. With increased exposure for women's football in the UK, her stock will only rise as stories of this English player abroad become better known and aged 26 there are still plenty of chapters to write. With that, comes further fame.

9. Lando Norris (F1)

This comes with the caveat Lewis Hamilton will have probably retired by 2023, paving the way for the next British pretender on the grid. It is a rich lineage of Jenson Button, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, James Hunt, Jackie Stewart, all the way back to Stirling Moss and John Surtees. Norris, like Hamilton was, is currently a reserve driver for McLaren and is regarded highy in the F1 paddock. Currently racing in Formula 2, Norris has won one race this season. Both he and George Russell, who is at Mercedes, look set to be on the grid next year but Norris' story has that added element of emulating Hamilton. When Hamilton eventually ends his stories F1 career, there will be a large void to fill. With four championship titles to Hamilton's name, and an estimated wealth of £159m, Norris has big racing overalls to fill but his form and his calm demeanour, similar to Max Verstappen, suggests he is in pole position to become the next British hope.

8. Darren Till (UFC)

Till is best-placed to follow in the footsteps of Michael Bisping as the UK's main interest in MMA, specifically the UFC. Bisping, still the only Brit to bring home UFC's championship, may yet have one more hurrah at the end of May, but then it is on Till to chase George St-Pierre's welterweight record. And he's not short of confidence. "I'm going to be the best fighter that's ever fought in MMA," Till told ESPN in March."That's what I truly believe". UFC is growing in popularity by the year -- with coverage also now on free-to-air BBC in the UK -- and Till's continued good form will see his own star shine brighter over the next handful of years. If there is someone from combat sports to gatecrash the UK market, it is likely to be him.

7. Raheem Sterling (Football)

The 2017-18 story was a remarkable one for those on the blue side of Manchester. A 100-point Premier League win, a brand of football that would've made Van Gogh, Monet and all their pals quiver as they attempted to do it justice, and a display of sheer dominance as Pep Guardiola's City sewed up the title by the time Christmas trees were being put up. Central to City's charge were their interchangeable attacking options, with Sterling at the forefront as he scored 23 goals in 51 games. The £49m signing from Liverpool in 2015 has already accrued a growing social media following and as form matches reputation, and currently aged just 23, Sterling will be a mainstay in fame indexes over the coming years.

6. Dele Alli (Football)

It is testament to Alli's ability and ridiculous promise that after his breakthrough 2016-17 season, the campaign just gone felt a little bit more underwhelming despite him scoring 14 for Tottenham Hotspur. Alli is hot property, and not just on the football field. Just last month, 35,000 people tuned in to watch him playing Fortnite on YouTube. Early in May, he launched his new 74-piece clothing brand in conjunction with rappers Tyga and French Montana. On the field, Alli, 22, continues to impress and if he opts for a sojourn at Real Madrid or Barcelona in the next couple of years, then by 2023 his fame will have skyrocketed.

5. Marcus Rashford (Football)

He exploded onto the football scene from near obscurity, scoring twice on his debut for Manchester United in the Europa League and then three days later he replicated that feat against Arsenal. A winning goal then followed in the Manchester derby, and all at the age of 18. He now has 17 England caps, is in their World Cup squad and though this campaign has been a struggle for him at stages, he is regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in world football. A lucrative tie-in has already been penned with Nike, he has worked with McDonald's, EA Sports and further sponsors are reportedly banging at the door to add their brand to this livewire striker.

4. Gareth Bale (Football)

With 33.5m Instagram followers and a contract worth a reported £15m a year, Bale is box office, coming in at 19th in this year's index. The algorithm we used suits Bale and even if in five years' time he is still at Real Madrid -- in truth there's more chance of managers going a year without bemoaning VAR -- then his star will only rise as football's popularity grows. By that time it is probable both Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi will have retired, meaning there will be a gap in the market for an attacking winger. Step forward Bale. Aged 28, Bale's next move will be fascinating and while he will be in the twilight of his career in five years' time, as Wayne Rooney has proven with his placing in this year's list, fame remains even as the body slows down.

3. Rory McIlroy (Golf)

According to the latest Rich List, McIlroy has £110m stored away alongside his social media following of 3.2m on Twitter. And whenever one of golf's majors come around, his name is inextricably linked as a possible winner. He will be 34 by the time 2023 ticks around, but if Jack Nicklaus can win the Masters at the age of 46, then McIlroy will still have plenty of time to add to his burgeoning trophy cabinet. He is the face of European golf, and was placed 15th in this year's global Fame Index and No.1 overall for UK athletes. But fame does not always chime well with McIlroy. On the golf course, he embraces the spotlight. But if you see him walking down the street, he prefers anonymity rather than actively seeking attention.

2. Harry Kane (Football)

There were no doubt eyebrows raised at Kane missing out on our top 100 this year, but in five years' time expect the England striker to be in the upper echelons of our index. Kane is constantly linked with Real Madrid -- that's what happens when you're a 30-goal-a-year forward. Aged 24, Kane is already regarded as the Premier League's most lethal finisher and even if by 2023 he is still at Spurs, his fame will only rise if he continues this run of season-on-season form. He was recently named the third most valuable player in the world according to CIES' Football Observatory, placing his transfer value at £172.65m, some £22m more than Spurs and England teammate Alli.

1. Anthony Joshua (Boxing)

Could Joshua have the UK sports scene at his feet in five years' time? It would take a brave individual to bet against it. With an estimated worth of £35m and a social media following of 6.4m on Instagram, the undefeated Joshua is fast becoming one of the most recognisable faces in world sport. He already has three of the four boxing belts tied up and if he secures a unification bout against Deontay Wilder and beats the American, then he will take a place on boxing's pantheon. Away from the ring he is savvy: he has nurtured his image, has made astute investments and is so incredibly popular with his fan base. The recent US-centric deal between his promoters Matchroom and DAZN will help grow Joshua's wealth and though he is just 43rd on this year's global list, expect him to move up year-on-year.


The beauty of sport's unpredictability means the above has vast scope to be completely different come 2023. There are plenty of other contenders. A brief sport-by-sport run through brings in the likes of Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith from rugby, Joe Root and Ben Stokes from cricket and then you have boxing's Katie Taylor and Daniel Dubois. The seemingly exponential rise of eSports could see someone like Spencer Ealing crash in, currently the UK's top-earner on that scene. Then you have those bright young things in football: Rhian Brewster, Phil Foden, Jordan Sancho, Ben Woodburn and Ryan Sessegnon. Katie Swan or Kyle Edmund could be the face of British tennis in five years' time, while Fran Kirby could be at the forefront of football's consciousness. Then you have the inspirational Billy Monger in motorsport. Only time will tell.