Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi topped the Forbes magazine list of the world’s highest-paid athletes on Wednesday in the wake of boxer Floyd Mayweather’s retirement and back surgery for golfer Tiger Woods.
The annual list of total revenues for top sports stars had been topped 12 times by Woods and in three of the last four by Mayweather, who retired unbeaten last year. This year, 31-year-old Portugal forward Ronaldo topped the list at $88 million (77.2 million euros) with $56 million in salary and $32 million more from endorsement deals.
The three-time FIFA player of the year is a marketing juggernaut with a new Nike deal worth $13 million annually plus endorsement partners such as Tag Heuer and Herbalife plus his own lines of suits, cologne, shirts, shoes, underwear and hotels. Messi, who sat out Argentina’s opening victory at the Copa America Centenario this week, was next at $81.4 million, with $28 million of that from sponsorships.
LeBron James, who leads the Cleveland Cavaliers against defending champion Golden State in the ongoing NBA Finals, was third on the list and tops among Americans with $77.2 million. He has endorsement deals of $54 million, including a lifetime pact with Nike that could pay off to the tune of $1 billion, and $23.2 million in club salary.
James made his movie debut in “Trainwreck” last year and is set to star in the sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan film “Space Jam” as well as take a huge salary boost next year when the NBA’s new $24 billion television deal starts.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring champion, shared 69th on $23.6 million with world number one golfer Jason Day of Australia. Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis star with a record 17 men’s Grand Slam singles titles, was fourth on $67.8 million. He set the pace in sponsor income at $60 million.