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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Lionel Messi as highest-paid athlete - Forbes

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the highest-paid athletes in the world, according to US business magazine Forbes.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo tops the list having earned $88 million (£60.9m) over the past 12 months, with Barcelona talisman Messi in second with earnings of $81.4m (£56.3m).

Golfer Tiger Woods and boxer Floyd Mayweather had dominated proceedings over the past decade, but with Woods struggling with injuries and form and Mayweather having retired, Ronaldo and Messi have stormed to the top.

Ronaldo becomes only the second team athlete after basketball legend Michael Jordan to rank as the highest-paid since Forbes began calculating sports stars' earnings in 1990.

According to Forbes, the Portugal captain's contract with Madrid, which runs until 2018, is worth more than $50m (£34.6m) a year including bonuses, with one bonus being triggered last month after he inspired his club to Champions League glory.

Forbes also calculates that Ronaldo earns $32m (£22.1m) off the pitch, having signed a contract with Nike worth $13m (£9m) last year, while he enjoys deals with Tag Heuer, Herbalife, Pokerstars and Clear Shampoo to name a few, as well as having his own line of products such as suits, cologne and underwear.

According to Hookit, which tracks sponsorship value in social and digital media, the former Manchester United player generated $176m (£121.7m) in media value over the past year after posting 255 times on social media promoting a brand to his 215m followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Messi, meanwhile, brought in $28m (£19.4m) from sponsors over the last 12 months, with his Adidas contract worth more than $10m (£6.9m) annually.

The Argentina captain, who earned bonuses from Barca and Adidas when he landed the Ballon d'Or in January, also has sponsorship deals with Huawei, Tata Motors, PepsiCo, Gillette and Electronic Arts.

Ronaldo and Messi saw off competition from basketball's LeBron James, who ranks third with total earnings of $77.2m (£53.4m), and tennis' Roger Federer, who sits fourth on $67.8m (£46.9m). Fellow basketball player Kevin Durant completes the top five, having earned $56.2m (£38.6m).

Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale are the only other footballers to make the list, sitting 21st, 22nd and 25th respectively, with earnings of $37.5m (£25.8m), $37.4m (£25.7m) and $35.9m (£24.7m).

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