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Ronaldo tops list of world’s highest paid athletes

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Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has remained at the top of Forbes’ prestigious annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, with Spanish golfer Jon Rahm moving into second place and Argentine star Lionel Messi in third.

The prestigious American business and finance magazine, Forbes, has published its list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. Veteran Cristiano Ronaldo, 39, topped the list for the fourth time in his prolific career.

The forward, currently the world’s leading scorer with 891 goals in 1221 matches, has an estimated earnings of $260 million, a record amount for a footballer, according to Forbes.

The astronomical figure comes from a mega contract worth a total of $200 million (€184 million) with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. The rest comes from off-field deals and image sponsorships.

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Golfer Jon Rahm’s significant rise in the list is due to his high-profile signing in December by LIV Golf, the Saudi circuit that has lured major stars away from the PGA with multimillion-dollar purses and guaranteed contracts.

The Spaniard, who will win the Masters Tournament at Augusta in 2023, has an estimated income of $218 million (€201 million), of which $198 million (€182 million) comes from his sporting activities.

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Rahm’s controversial move to LIV Golf has seen him move up from 28th place last year to second.

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It underlines the growing influence of petrodollars in the world of sport, with multi-million dollar contracts and events in the Persian Gulf becoming increasingly common.

Argentina’s Lionel Messidropped from second to third place with earnings of $135 million (€124 million). He earned $65 million (€60 million) from playing for Inter Miami in the MLS and another $70 million (€65 million) from other commercial sources such as sponsorships with Adidas and Apple.

In terms of his club contract, Cristiano triples Messi’s earnings from the club that owns his services, while the Argentine outstrips the Portuguese in terms of image rights. The economic power of the Arabs is clear.

NBA stars LeBron James (Lakers)and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) are fourth and fifth on the list with earnings of $128.2 million (€118 million) and $111 million (€102 million) respectively.

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Footballers Kylian Mbappé($110m, €101m), Neymar ($108m, €100m) and Karim Benzema ($106m, €98m) complete the top 10, with the latter two playing in Gulf countries.

Basketball’s Stephen Curry ($102m, €94m) and American football’s Lamar Jackson ($100.5 m, €92 m) are also on the list, with Forbes noting that this is the first time in history that the world’s top ten highest-earning athletes each earn more than $100 million.

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