Cristiano Ronaldo tops list of highest paid athletes in the world while Lionel Messi sits at No. 3

Cristiano Ronaldo topped Forbes' list of highest-paid athletes for the fourth time in his career while Spanish golfer Jon Rahm moved up to second following his sensational switch to Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

Ronaldo became the world's highest-paid athlete after his move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr and Forbes said the 39-year-old's estimated total earnings were in the region of $260 million, an all-time high for a soccer player.

His on-field earnings amounted to $200 million while his off-field earnings were $60 million thanks to sponsorship deals where brands make use of his 629 million Instagram followers.

Highest paid athletes 2024

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo - $260 million
  2. Jon Rahm - $218 million
  3. Lionel Messi - $135 million
  4. LeBron James - $128.2 million
  5. Giannis Antetokounmpo - $111 million
  6. Kylian Mbappé - $110 million
  7. Neymar - $108 million
  8. Karim Benzema - $106 million
  9. Stephen Curry - $102 million
  10. Lamar Jackson - $100.5 million

Twice major winner Rahm joined LIV Golf in December in a big-money move that sent shockwaves through the sport after media reports said the current world number five would be paid at least $300 million.

Apart from that guarantee, Rahm has earned $218 million and joins Ronaldo as the only two athletes to earn over $200 million.

Third on the list is record eight-times Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi, who made a lucrative switch to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, helping the Argentine World Cup winner earn $135 million.

The 36-year-old has earned $65 million in on-field earnings but $70 million off it thanks to deals with major sponsors such as Adidas and Apple.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is fourth at $128.2 million and although the 39-year-old, the first NBA player to score 40,000 career points, is nearing the end of his career, the American is set to have one last crack at the Olympics.

Fellow NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo ($111 million) of the Milwaukee Bucks rounds out the top five while France soccer captain Kylian Mbappé has dropped down to sixth ($110 million).

Mbappé announced he would be leaving Paris St Germain after seven years in the French capital where he became the club's all-time leading scorer and the 25-year-old is expected to join Spanish giants Real Madrid in the close season.

Former PSG star Neymar, who also moved to the Saudi Pro League to join Al-Hilal, is seventh ($108 million) despite sitting out the majority of the season with a torn ACL.

French striker Karim Benzema, who also moved to Saudi Arabia, is eighth ($106 million) on the list followed by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry ($102 million).

Lamar Jackson is the only NFL player on the list in 10th place ($100.5 million) thanks to the signing bonus that was negotiated into his new Baltimore Ravens contract last year.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in BengaluruEditing by Toby Davis)

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