Football: Messi tops Forbes' highest-paid athletes list

Lionel Messi earned US$130 million ($S181.3 million), a figure which includes $55 million of endorsements. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Lionel Messi was the world's highest-paid athlete over the last year, according to the annual Forbes list released on Wednesday (May 11) that had the Paris Saint-Germain forward ahead of the National Basketball Association's LeBron James and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi left Barcelona after the 2020-21 season, having previously spent his entire playing career with the Catalan club, but he failed to lead PSG to European glory after signing a bumper deal with the French giants. The Argentina superstar, however, did score on the rich list.

He earned US$130 million ($S181.3 million), a figure which includes $55 million of endorsements, during the 12-month period ended May 1, 2022, to sit atop the list of the 10 highest-paid athletes, a year after finishing second to Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

Los Angeles Lakers forward James was next on the list after bringing home a combined US$121 million, shattering the US$96.5 million record for an NBA player that he set last year, while Portugal captain Ronaldo, who also moved in the summer when he returned to Old Trafford, earned US$115 million to sit in third spot.

Brazilian football star Neymar (US$95 million) and three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry (US$92.8 million) of the Golden State Warriors rounded out the top five.

Brooklyn Nets and two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant (US$92 million) was in sixth, while Swiss tennis great Roger Federer, who played five tournaments in 2021 before a knee operation curtailed his season, took seventh spot with total earnings of US$90.7 million.

The final three spots on the list went to Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez (US$90 million), seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (US$83.9 million) - the oldest on the list at 44-years-old - and reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo (US$80.9 million).

Forbes said its on-the-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned during the 12-month period, while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income.

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