Lionel Messi world’s highest paid athlete with Cristiano Ronaldo also featuring in Top 10

Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes has been released, and Paris Saint-Germain star Lionel Messi is at number one afer making the move from Barcelona

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  • 10:58, 12 May 2022
  • Updated11:08, 12 May 2022
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Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi has topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid athletes, with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo also in the top 10.

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Messi left Barcelona after the 2020-21 season, having previously spent his entire playing career with the Catalan club. He failed to lead PSG to European glory after signing a bumper deal with the French giants, but did score the goal which confirmed Les Parisiens as Ligue 1 champions.

Ronaldo was also on the move last summer, returning to Old Trafford after 12 years away. He has endured an even more disappointing season on the pitch, ending the campaign empty-handed, but has still earned enough on and off the pitch to join Messi on the podium.

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The Forbes top 10 is dominated by athletes from other sports, with Messi, Ronaldo and PSG and Brazil forward Neymar the only footballers to make the cut. The 10 athletes on the list brought in a reported US$992m (£814m), with Messi accounting for $130m of that total.

Athletes' earnings combine their on-field and off-field earnings. The latter includes endorsements such as Messi's £15m deal with cryptocurrency platform Socios, which helped the Argentina international draw level with Ronaldo for earnings away from the pitch.

Neymar's fourth place on the list owes a lot to his $70m in on-field earnings. The Brazilian's basic salary had earlier been reported to be slightly higher than that of his club teammate, but Forbes' numbers include bonuses and prize money in 12-month period which saw Messi win the 2021 Ballon d'Or and lift the Copa America trophy with Argentina.

Will more footballers make the list in 2023? Have your say in the comments section

Messi won the Ballon d'Or in 2021
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Image:
AFP via Getty Images)

Other Messi income sources listed by Forbes include deals with Adidas, Budweiser, PepsiCo and Hard Rock Cafe. Ronaldo, meanwhile, has endorsements with Nike, Herbalife Clear shampoo and ZujuGP.

The two are separated on the list by basketball star LeBron James. James' earnings for the period from May 2021 to May 2022 sit at $121.2m, slightly ahead of Ronaldo's $115m.

Neymar is relatively far adrift of the top three. His $95m total includes Puma and Red Bull deals, while Forbes has also made reference to his investments in the NFT space.

Ronaldo and Messi made the same amount away from the pitch
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Image:
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The other names on the list represent a range of other sports, though basketball has the highest involvement. In addition to James, there are spots in the top 10 for Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the latter the only athlete on the list under the age of 30.

Completing the list are boxer Canelo Alvarez, tennis star Roger Federer and NFL legend Tom Brady, who met with Ronaldo shortly before announcing an about-face on his retirement. At 44 years of age, multiple Super Bowl champion Brady is the oldest member of the top 10.

Alvarez's $85m earnings from his exploits in the ring make him the highest on-field earner. In contrast, Federer made less than $1m on the court in the year in question, but raked in a huge $90m in off-field endorsements.

Federer is the biggest off-field earner
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Image:
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Forbes' list of the top 10 highest-earning athletes for the period from May 1, 2021 to May 1, 2022, including active athletes only:

1. Lionel Messi ($130m)

2. LeBron James ($121.2m)

3. Cristiano Ronaldo ($115m)

4. Neymar ($95m)

5. Stephen Curry ($92.8m)

6. Kevin Durant ($92.1m)

7. Roger Federer ($90.7m)

8. Canelo Alvarez ($90m)

9. Tom Brady ($83.9m)

10. Giannis Antetokonmpo ($80.9m)

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