Lionel Messi Tops Forbes’ Sporting Rich List

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Lionel Messi was the world’s highest-paid athlete over the last year, according to the annual Forbes list released on Wednesday that had the Paris Saint-Germain forward ahead of the NBA’s LeBron James and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi earned $130million (£107m), a figure which includes $55million (£45m) 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.

McGregor has now fallen out of the top 10 and hasn’t fought since his defeat by Dustin Poirier last summer, when he broke his leg in the fight, and his earnings have taken a hit as a consequence. He was estimated to have earned £127m last year.

Sir Lewis Hamilton is another notable omission. Last year he was eighth in the list with £58m, a decline of almost half on 2020, and this time around he does not make the top 10 at all.

Messi, meanwhile, left boyhood club Barcelona last summer and headed to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

But an interesting facet of the Forbes report is that he has earned £45m in endorsement. He has taken on an array of sponsorships outside of football, some of which have been controversial.

Just this week, he was pictured shortly after landing in Saudi Arabia as an ambassador for tourism, despite families of prisoners of conscience in the country urging him earlier this year not to get involved in any partnerships with the nation.

Los Angeles Lakers forward James is second on the list after bringing home a combined $121million (£99m), shattering the $96.5million (£79m) record for an NBA player that he set last year, while Ronaldo earned $115million (£94m) to sit third.

The Portugal captain sealed an emotional return to United last summer, leaving Italian giants Juventus after three seasons. He also turned down a $6m offer to work commercially with Saudi Arabia last year.

His £385,000-a-week wage will fall next season though if he remains at United. The Red Devils have failed to qualify for the lucrative Champions League next season and as Sportsmail reported on the weekend, it means Ronaldo will earn £288,000-a-week at United if he’s there for the 2022-23 season.

Brazil and PSG star Neymar, Messi’s team-mate, ($95million – £78m) and three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry ($92.8million – £76m) of the Golden State Warriors rounded out the top five.

NBA player Kevin Durant ($92million – £74.8m) was sixth while Swiss tennis great Roger Federer, who played five tournaments in 2021 before a knee operation curtailed his season, was third with total earnings of $90.7million (£74.4m).

There had been fears that those knee issues could force Federer, who is now 40, into retirement.

While he is yet to play in 2022, he shared pictures from the gym on his Instagram account last month with the caption ‘rehab is rockingggg’.

The final three spots on the list went to Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez ($90million – £73.7m), seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady ($83.9million – £68.7m) and reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo ($80.9million – £66.3m).

Alvarez was surprisingly beaten by Dmitry Bivol at the weekend, the first loss of his career, but defeated Billy Joe Saunders last May in a hotly anticipated showdown.

Brady, 44, announced his NFL retirement earlier this year, only to change his mind and agree to one more season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While the details of Brady’s 2022 deal with the Bucs is unclear, last year’s terms saw him earn in the region of $25m.

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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