Lionel Messi, with US$126 million in earnings, tops Forbes list ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi, with US$126 million in earnings, tops Forbes list ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo

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Lionel Messi was denied a potentially money-spinning move away from Barcelona this month after a contract dispute but the Argentinian maestro remains the world's richest football player.

According to a list compiled by Forbes, his total earnings this year are US$126 million (S$172 million) - US$92 million from his salary and US$34 million in endorsements.

It also said that he has now earned US$1 billion in "pre-tax career earnings", making him the sport's second billionaire after Cristiano Ronaldo.In June, Forbes had declared the Portuguese the world's first footballing billionaire on its list of the top five highest-grossing athletes of 2019.

Not surprisingly, Ronaldo comes in second in the latest Forbes list, although earnings of US$117 million will soften the blow for the Juventus forward, as will his status as the most-followed football player in the world on social media.

Neymar comes in third on the Forbes list (US$96 million) with his Paris St Germain team mate, 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe, up in fourth spot (US$42 million).The Premier League remains the world's richest domestic football league but only two of its outfield players feature in the top 10 of the wealth table - Liverpool's title-winning striker Mohamed Salah in fifth spot (US$37 million) and Manchester United's midfielder Paul Pogba (US$34 million) in sixth. Pogba's team-mate, goalkeeper David de Gea (US$27 million) is 10th.

Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann was seventh and Real Madrid's Gareth Bale eighth. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only Bundesliga player, is in ninth.

Messi reluctantly agreed to stay at Barcelona for another season this month, despite saying in the wake of an 8-2 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich that he wanted out.He argued that a clause in his contract stating that a €700 million (S$1.1 billion) release fee would need to be met for him to join another club was no longer active and that he could leave on a free transfer - a situation that would have allowed him to command astronomical wages from the likes of Manchester City.

Messi, 33, is in the final year of his contract so could leave for free next summer. By staying with the Catalan club, Messi is in line for an US$83 million loyalty bonus so it is likely he will continue to top the money chart.