£109 million! Cristiano Ronaldo knocks Lionel Messi off top spot in Forbes' list of highest-paid athletes after Al-Nassr transfer

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Cristiano Ronaldo smile Lionel Messi wink split
Al-Nassr star Cristiano Ronaldo has been listed as Forbes' highest-paid athlete with £109 million ($136m) in 2022, one place ahead of Lionel Messi.
  • Ronaldo earned £109m in 2022
  • Highest amount in footballing history
  • Reclaimed top spot for first time since 2017

WHAT HAPPENED? The Portuguese forward was forced out of Manchester United at the turn of the year following controversial comments made towards the club. Despite a significant drop off in quality from his Champions League days, Ronaldo certainly hasn't suffered in compensation. Forbes have revealed that the 38-year-old earned £109m last year in “prize money, salaries and bonuses”, as well as off-field “sponsorship deals, appearances fees and memorabilia". This places him just ahead of Paris Saint-Germain star Lionel Messi on £104m ($130m), while Kylian Mbappe makes up a hat-trick of footballers in the top three, with his earnings worth £96m ($120m).

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: The exorbitant figures posted for Ronaldo are the largest amount for a footballer in history, and puts the Portugal star back on the top spot for the first time since 2017. Curiously, the Al-Nassr captain could soon be joined by Messi in Saudi Arabia. Current employers PSG won't be renewing him beyond this summer, and a recent trip to the Gulf state has fuelled rumours of a reunion between the long-standing rivals - with Al-Hilal having already submitted a mega-money bid.

AND WHAT'S MORE: That would potentially take Ronaldo back off top spot, but a return to Barcelona for the Argentine still seems the most likely route - even though that would involve a significant wage cut. Basketball great LeBron James and boxer Canelo Alvarez complete the top five, both behind Mbappe after the 24-year-old received an eye-watering new deal last summer.


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1Cristiano Ronaldo£109m
2Lionel Messi£104m
3Kylian Mbappe£96m
4LeBron James£95m
5Canelo Alvarez£88m
6Dustin Johnson£86m
7Phil Mickelson£85m
8Stephen Curry£81m
9Roger Federer£76m
10Kevin Durant£72m


Cristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr 2022-23

Lionel Messi PSG 2022-23


WHAT NEXT? While talk rages on about their respective futures, Messi will be seeing out his two-week suspension at PSG as Ronaldo prepares for a meeting with Al-Khaleej on Monday.