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Lionel Messi Breaks Billion-dollar Barrier to Beat Cristiano Ronaldo on Football Rich List

There are no prizes for guessing why Lionel Messi looked dejected when he returned to full training with Barcelona last week. The 33-year-old superstar was denied a long-awaited transfer away from the Spanish giants despite making it clear that he wanted to cut short his contract and leave. However, he might find solace in the Forbes list for highest-earning footballers in 2020.

According to the magazine, Messi’s decision to stay put means that he stands to earn 126 million U.S. dollars this year at Camp Nou, beating arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who came in second with earnings of 117 million U.S. dollars.

Messi’s total earning is split between 92 million U.S. dollars in salary and 34 million U.S. dollars in endorsements.

With 457 million followers across his social media accounts, Ronaldo is the most popular athlete in the world. The Juventus striker was also football’s first billionaire at the age of 35. But Messi has now achieved the same feat as Forbes estimates that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has earned over 1 billion U.S. dollars in pre-tax earnings during his career.

Brazilian icon Neymar, who was one of five players sent off after a mass brawl at the end of PSG’s 1-0 loss in Ligue 1 on Sunday, ranked third with earnings of 96 million U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, his teammate,  21-year-old Kylian Mbappe, rose to fourth and is due to earn 42 million U.S. dollars in 2020.

Liverpool talisman Salah, who just bagged himself a hat-trick in Liverpool’s win over Leeds, is the highest-ranking Premier League player. The Egyptian clinched the fifth spot ahead of Manchester United midfielder Pogba in sixth. Pogba’s teammate David de Gea is the only goalkeeper in the top ten.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is the only Bundesliga player who sat in ninth. Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann was seventh, while Gareth Bale, who is reportedly willing to join United on loan if a deal can be agreed with Real Madrid, was eighth.

Forbes revealed that the top 10 are expected to pull in 570 million U.S. dollars in salary, bonuses and endorsements this upcoming season, barring no further pandemic pauses of the kind that led to the 30 percent to 70 percent pay cuts last spring across European leagues. The list’s combined haul is up 11 percent from the 2019-20 season.

Forbes list of world’s highest-paid footballers 2020

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) 126 million U.S. dollars
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal) 117 million U.S. dollars
3. Neymar (Paris St-Germain and Brazil) 96 million U.S. dollars
4. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain and France) 42 million U.S. dollars
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt) 37 million U.S. dollars
6. Paul Pogba (Manchester United and France) 34 million U.S. dollars
7. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona and France) 33 million U.S. dollars
8. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales) 29 million U.S. dollars
9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland) 28 million U.S. dollars
10. David de Gea (Manchester United and Spain) 27 million U.S. dollars

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