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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rank no.2 and no.3 in Forbes’s 10 highest-paid athletes in the world

Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi
(Image credit: Getty)

Lionel Messi has been named as the highest-paid footballer in the world by Forbes, closely followed by his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona captain Messi, 33, is said to have earned a whopping $130m last year - that’s $10m more than Ronaldo, 36, is estimated to have made. Around $97m of Messi’s earnings came on the pitch from his Barca contract, while $33m is is fought to have come from commercial deals with the likes of Adidas and Budweiser. 

Messi almost left Barcelona last summer and despite the pandemic, has not seen a slowing of his earnings. With the Argentinian’s contract set to expire this summer, he could well see a rise on his current wage either at Barcelona or elsewhere. 

Ronaldo, meanwhile, earns far more from his commercial projects than his counterpart. The Juventus forward became the first person in the world to hit 500 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in February, and is thought to earn $50m from the likes of Nike and his own CR7 brand. 

US sports stars Dak Prescott and LeBron James follow Messi and Ronaldo into fourth and fifth, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, who is the youngest footballer on the list at just 29. The Brazilian is thought to be worth $95m.

Neymar has 282 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and last year hooked up with Puma to become a brand ambassador. He has recently been added to video game, Fortnite, and is estimated to receive just shy of $20m from his off-field endeavours. 

Tennis star Roger Federer follows Neymar into sixth with $90m, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton is next on the list with $82m - becoming the highest-paid British sports star - with 43-year-old American Football veteran Tom Brady in ninth with $76m. Kevin Durant is in tenth with $75m.

On-loan Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale is thought to be the highest-earning player in the Premier League at just over £30m a year, with Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City following behind at £20m. David De Gea, Raheem Sterling and Paul Pogba are estimated to complete the top five highest-paid players in the division.

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