Lionel Messi beats Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and LeBron James as world’s best paid athlete


Lionel Messi has beaten Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned the world’s best paid athlete.

The Barcelona star took home £99.8million from salary and endorsements over the past 12 months, £14m more than Juventus talisman Ronaldo.

The world’s most expensive ever footballer, Neymar, completes the top three as footballers dominate the podium spots of Forbes’ list of the 100 highest paid athletes.

Messi leapfrogged Floyd Mayweather, who held the crown last year after his lucrative bout with Conor McGregor ensured he would lead the way for the fourth time in seven years.

‘The global impact of soccer is clearly reflected in earnings in 2019, with the top three athletes on the list being Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar,’ said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor, Forbes Media. 

‘But basketball players continue to dominate the top 100 overall with 35 athletes on the list earning a total of $1.29 billion (£1.01bn), with 72 per cent of that income coming from salaries rather than endorsement deals.’ 

Basketball dominates the overall top 100 with 35 athletes making the cut, which has reached its highest entry requirement ever at $25m (£19.6m). 

The UK has the most athletes in the list of any country other than the United States, with five in total. Lewis Hamilton placed 13th – tied with Anthony Joshua, Rory McIlroy 32nd, Justin Rose 47th and Gareth Bale 79th.

Hamilton and Joshua both took home £43.2m ($55m), while McIlroy landed £30.7m ($39m). 

Serena Williams made a welcome return to the overall top 100, placing 63rd after no women featured on the list last year. 

The top five saw boxer Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez steal a march on tennis great Roger Federer by £600,000, while American footballers Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers spearhead the American charge, with Basketball heavyweights LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant all making the top 10.

Manchester United had two players on the list; France midfielder Paul Pogba was ranked 44th having earned £25.9m ($33m) of which £22.8m ($29m) was salary alone, and Alexis Sanchez in 53rd, who earned £24.2m ($30.8m).

The earnings include prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between June 1 2018 and June 1 2019. Forbes used endorsements as estimates of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes in the same period. Taxes and agents’ fees are not deducted.

The full list of the top 100 athletes can be found here.  


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