Lionel Messi is the world’s highest-paid athlete: Forbes

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MUMBAI: Lionel Messi was named the world’s highest-paid athlete in Forbes’ annual ranking of the World’s 100 Highest-Paid athletes, who collectively earned $4 billion over the last 12 months, up 5% from last year’s earnings of $3.8 billion. Messi takes top spot for the first time, up from second place last year, with $127 million in total earnings.

Messi unseats Floyd Mayweather, who held the crown last year and was the leader four times in seven years. Virat Kohli is the only Indian and is also the only cricketer on the list at number 100. He made $25 million out of which $21 million came from endorsements. In 2018, Kohli won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, awarded to the best cricketer of the year, as well as ODI and Test player of the year honors.

Last year, Kohli was one of just five Indian cricketers selected for the nation’s new A+ contracts, which guarantee an annual salary of $1 million. Kohli is a global megastar; his 102 million followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are among the most for any athlete.

Since his Barcelona debut in 2003, Messi has played 687 matches for his club, scored 603 goals, and won 33 club titles, including 10 La Liga titles. His current Barcelona contract is through 2020-21 and pays him over $80 million annually. He also has a lifelong deal with Adidas. He has been awarded FIFA’s Player of the Year five times and won the European Golden Shoe for top scorer on the continent a record six times. In 2016, he was convicted of tax fraud in Spain for avoiding income tax between 2007 and 2009. His 21-month sentence was cut to a $250,000 fine.

Behind Messi is longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo (No. 2), who earned $109 million between his salary and endorsements. Serena Williams (No. 63) returned to the ranking after no women appeared in 2018. The cost of admission to the 2019 list is the highest ever at $25 million, up to $2.1 million from the previous year. Endorsement income experienced an increase of 12.5% to $987 million this year.

“The global impact of soccer is clearly reflected in earnings in 2019, with the top three athletes on the list being Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar. But basketball players continue to dominate the top 100 overall with 35 athletes on the list earning a total of $1.29 billion, with 72% of that income coming from salaries rather than endorsement deals” said Forbes Media senior editor Kurt Badenhausen.

The list of elite athletes consists of players from ten different sports. NBA stars lead with 35 basketball players among the top 100, down from 40 in 2018, headed by LeBron James (No. 8 with $89 million). Football was the next most-represented sport with 19 players, followed by baseball with 15, and soccer with 12.

There are 25 different countries represented on this year’s World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, up from 22 in 2018. Americans dominate the action with 62 athletes thanks to the sky-high salaries in the major sports leagues. The U.K. has five athletes, France and Spain have three, while Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Serbia, and Venezuela all have two.

The earnings include prize money, salaries, and bonuses earned between 1st June 2018 and 1st June 2019. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12-month period based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. Forbes does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees, and we don’t include investment income.


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