World’s highest-paid athletes listed with Messi first and Ronaldo third

PSG and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has been unveiled as the world's highest-paid athlete, with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo made to settle for third place.

As arguably the two greatest of all-time, it is no surprise that Messi and Ronaldo are the two footballers to rake in the biggest amounts of cash. It's not only their on-field antics that allow them to live lavish lifestyles though, with their incredible marketability allowing for various endorsements to bring in almost just as much money.

The only footballer to join Messi and Ronaldo on the top 10 list is the former's PSG team-mate Neymar. There are a several basketball superstars raking it in, while some experienced heads from other sports have their big-money deals to thank for their growing net worths.

Daily Star Sport brings you the top 10 highest-paid athletes, according to Forbes.

1. Lionel Messi

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster last 12 months for Messi, who left Barcelona in tears and hasn't quite been able to replicate his form since joining PSG. But one thing is for certain, he's not short on cash.

Forbes claim Messi made well over £100million in pre-tax gross earnings over the last 12 months. Most of that came from his salary at Barca and then PSG, but a new deal with blockchain fan token creators Socios, as well as his pre-existing sponsorships with Adidas, Budweiser and Pepsi mean he tops the list.

2. LeBron James

NBA legend LeBron James didn't have a season to remember on the court as the LA Lakers missed out on the playoffs. However, the 37-year-old keeps on winning when it comes to making money.

James will have picked up a tidy paycheque from starring in last year’s Space Jam: A New Legacy movie, more success from his YouTube talk show The Shop, and selling and re-investing in various assets.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

It was a highly emotional return to Manchester United for Ronaldo last summer, and his back pocket doesn't seem to have taken much of a hit either, with his £500,000-per- week still paying the bills.

Now 37, the Portuguese is just as marketable as ever, boasting the most followers of anyone on Instagram with 439million, and hundreds of millions more on his other socials. Ronaldo earns roughly the same amount on the pitch as he does off it, so even when he does decide to hang up his boots, rest assured the money isn't going to dry up.

4. Neymar

A divisive figure, Neymar is not at the same level as Messi or Ronaldo when it comes to how much he is revered as a player. But his bank account doesn't mind too much about that, with the Brazilian picking up more than Ronaldo each month.

Neymar is clearly a forward thinking investor too, having spent around £737,000 on buying two NFT's from the Bored Ape Yacht Club. It's thought Neymar now owns the most expensive of all 10,000 of the highly sought-after ape tokens, with Ape 5269 costing 189.69 ETH.

5. Steph Curry

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry is the highest-paid player in the NBA after signing a contract extension last August. The three-time NBA champion makes just shy of £40m every year thanks to his staggering on-court performances.

But the 34-year-old also clearly knows where to invest too, dabbling in NFT's and cryptocurrency, like various other sports stars. Curry's net worth will no doubt have received a boost from a development deal with Comcast NBCUniversal for his production company Unanimous Media.

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6. Kevin Durant

Another basketball icon, Kevin Durant earns a healthy salary being the star man for the Brooklyn Nets. But he also makes plenty of dough through his sponsorship with Nike, almost £23m to be precise.

Durant has too many investments to name, but continues to pick up sponsorships from the likes of Coinbase and Weedmaps, which along with his various start-ups and media company will ensure he is never out of pocket.

7. Roger Federer

The undisputed GOAT of tennis, Roger Federer hasn't actually played a competitive match in 2022, but he's still the seventh best-paid athlete in the world. Mind blowing!

The Swiss continues to promote huge brands such as Uniqlo and Rolex, while he also invested in shoe brand ON, who have been hugely successful since he became involved.

8. Canelo Alvarez

Canelo was the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world before his recent shock defeat to Dmitry Bivol, and he has the paycheques to prove it. The Mexican is thought to have earned around £32m from his two pay-per-view fights before losing to Bivol.

Canelo has a number of lucrative sponsorships, but intends to build up an empire thanks to his taco restaurants and opening gas stations, while his Canelo Promotions is working with DAZN to put on fights in Mexico.

It's worth noting his defeat to Bivol was not included in the tracking window by Forbes.

9. Tom Brady

Brady u-turned on his retirement decision meaning he will be back in action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2022 season. But he could be forgiven for thinking seven Super Bowl rings is enough – he certainly doesn't need the money!

To add on to his investment portfolio that includes an NFT platform, two production companies and a clothes line, Brady is also set to take up a commentator role with Fox Sports. If you were worried he might struggle in his eventual retirement, fear not, as Brady is set to earn over £300m over the next 10 years at Fox.

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The only member of the list not yet to pass 30, fresh from his NBA championship success, Giannis Antetokounmpo rounds off the top 10. The Milwaukee Bucks’ two-time MVP agreed a new five-year contract in December 2020 worth a total of £186m.

The Greek Freak was one of the investors in WatchBox, who raised £135m in total, and also has deals with an NFT platform and Google's Pixel 6 phone.

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