Cristiano Ronaldo becomes first footballer to top Forbes list of highest-paid athletes


Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo earns more than any other sportsperson, Forbes’ annual list of the world’s wealthiest athletes shows.


The influential business magazine’s list has been led by either boxer Floyd Mayweather or golfer Tiger Woods for the past decade-and-a-half.


But with Mayweather retiring and Woods not playing because of injury, the Portugal captain has risen to the top.


He earned $88m from salary, bonuses and endorsements last year.


Ronaldo, 31, is only the second team sport athlete, after basketball superstar Michael Jordan, to have topped the list since Forbes began tracking earnings in 1990.


His off-pitch earnings of $32m include a $13m-a-year deal with sportswear firm Nike – which has partnerships with half of the top 100 stars.


The three-time world player of the year’s most significant football rival, Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi, is second on the list with earnings of $81.4m last year.


In full, the top 10 list is as follows:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo – football ($88m)
  • Lionel Messi – football ($81.4m)
  • LeBron James – basketball ($77.2m)
  • Roger Federer – tennis ($67.8m)
  • Kevin Durant – basketball (£56.2m)
  • Novak Djokovic – tennis ($55.8m)
  • Cam Newton – American football ($53.1m)
  • Phil Mickelson – golf ($52.9m)
  • Jordan Spieth – golf ($52.8m)
  • Kobe Bryant – basketball ($50m)
  • *Usain Bolt – Athletics ($32M)


One in four of the top 100 earning stars in the Forbes list is a baseball player and 65 of them are Americans. Together, the 100 earned $3.15bn in 2015.


F1’s Lewis Hamilton is the highest-earning Briton on the list. His $46m puts him in 11th place.


Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy is 17th, with $42.6m – of that, $35m came from endorsements.


Wales international Gareth Bale, Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team-mate, is the highest-earning British footballer, with his $35.9m putting him 25th.


World number one tennis player Serena Williams is the highest-placed woman on the list, in 40th, with $28.9m made last year. The only other woman to feature in the top 100 is fellow tennis player Maria Sharapova, who comes in at 79 with $21.9m.


The Russian, previously the world’s highest-earning female athlete, was banned from the sport for two years on Wednesday after testing positive for a prohibited substance.


England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is at 49, with $26.1m, making him the highest-grossing Premier League player.


Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is the next biggest earner in the Premier League, his $24.3m placing him at 60.


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