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SPORTS UPDATE

Money-man: Messi tops Forbes’ sporting rich list with annual earnings of £107m

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.

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