• Messi claims top spot on Forbes’ highest-paid footballers

    Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring the opener against Manchester United

    Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi features as the world’s highest-paid athlete on the Forbes 2019 annual list of entertainers.

    Messi has raked in £101 million in pre-tax earnings over the last 12 months, according to the financial authority, ranking him fourth overall behind Taylor Swift (£148m), Kylie Jenner (£136m) and Kanye West (£120m).

    Messi has a contract at Barcelona which runs for another two years, and his current salary is around £64m at the Camp Nou. The Argentinian also has a lifetime contract with Adidas, which he renewed in February 2017, and is estimated to be worth around £9.5m annually.

    Cristiano Ronaldo comes home in sixth place with earnings of £86.5m, just behind Ed Sheeran (£87m).

    The Portuguese joined Juventus in the summer of 2018 and took a pay cut on his old Real Madrid contract, but still pulls in £51m per year with the Bianconeri. Juve sold 520,000 shirts with Ronaldo’s name on within 24 hours of his signing.

    Neymar (£83.5m) follows close behind in seventh on the overall list, despite a relatively miserable year on the pitch in which he missed Brazil’s Copa America success and watched on in horror as PSG were knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United.

    The Brazilian still has three years left on his eye-watering contract – with an estimated annual salary of £56m – in the French capital, following his record-breaking £198m move from Barcelona two summers ago.

    No other footballer featured in the Forbes top 100.

    Each of the superstars above have been found guilty of tax avoidance in the past. Neymar was fined in 2016 after being found guilty of offences between 2011 and 2013; Messi in the same year after dodging between 2007 and 2009; and Ronaldo in January 2019, coughing up a £16.75m fine for offences from 2010-14.

    Forbes’ highest-paid athletes 2019:

    1) Lionel Messi (£101m)

    2) Cristiano Ronaldo (£86.5m)

    3) Neymar (£83.5m)

    4) Canelo Alvarez (£75m)

    5) Roger Federer (£74.5m)

    6) Russell Wilson (£71.4m)

    7) Aaron Rogers (£71.2m)

    8) LeBron James (£71m)

    9) Steph Curry (£63.7m)

    10) Kevin Durant (£52.1m)

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