Lionel Messi was the world’s highest paid athlete over the past year, Forbes reported on Tuesday in its annual sporting rich list.
Barcelona and Argentina star Messi dethroned retired boxer Floyd Mayweather as the sports world’s highest earner, raking in $127 million via salary and endorsement deals.
That put Messi ahead of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the Juventus and Portugal star who was second with earnings of $109 million.
Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar completed a sweep of the top three positions by footballers, coming in third with earnings of $105 million.
The fourth highest earner on the list was Mexico’s middleweight boxing star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez with $94 million.
Alvarez, who defeated Gennady Golovkin last September to become the unified middleweight champion, inked the richest deal in boxing history last October, signing a five-year 11-fight contract with streaming network DAZN worth $365 million.
Evergreen tennis star Roger Federer was fifth on the list with total earnings of $93.4 million.
The bulk of Federer’s earnings came through lucrative endorsement deals, with the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion pocketing $86 million.
Stars from the NFL and NBA rounded out the top 10 on the list, with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson sixth on $89.5 million, just ahead of Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers ($89.3 million).
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was the highest earning NBA player, with $89 million, while Golden State’s Stephen Curry was ninth with $79.8 million.
Curry’s Golden State team-mate Kevin Durant was 10th on the rankings with $65.4 million.
Former world number one Tiger Woods was 11th on the list with $69.3 million, which included an estimated $54 million in endorsements.
Meanwhile tennis superstar Serena Williams was the only woman to make the list, coming in at 63rd with earnings of $29.2 million.
The experts have the Dutchman ahead of Messi in the race for the Ballon d’Or after his spectacular individual season earned Liverpool a Champions League trophy.
But Carragher feels the Argentine will walk away with his sixth title.
“I saw he’s gone ahead of Messi (in the running),” he told Sky Sports.
“I’d be thinking Messi to be honest – very rarely you see a centre-back get that.
“I think that Cannavaro got it on the back of winning the World Cup in 2006. I don’t think his game has changed too much over the season.
“He’s obviously had a great season but I think you’ve got to win big things and I think that Champions League has put that stamp on him being one of the world’s best.”
The 41-year-old admitted that Van Dijk has proven himself as a world class player but is not favourite for the prestigious individual trophy.
“I think when you win something big, that’s when you really cement yourself at that level and I think he is the best in the world in that position. He’s proven himself.
“But, Ballon d’Or, I think Messi.”
Lionel Messi has been speaking ahead of Barcelona’s final match of the season – and it’s news that every Blaugrana fan will want to hear.
The Spanish champions can complete a second straight domestic double when it faces Valencia on Saturday in the Copa del Rey final.
Barcelona has won a record 30 Copa del Rey titles, including the last four, but it was eliminated from the Champions League by Liverpool after blowing a 3-0 lead from the first leg.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde could have a lot riding on the outcome of the game against Valencia, which will be played on neutral turf in Seville.
He has presided over two catastrophic failures in the Champions League, including letting a 4-1 advantage slip against Roma last year, but Messi is in no doubt about where his future lies.
Watch his thoughts in the video above.