Ronaldo earns $260m, named Forbes highest-paid athlete

Cristiano Ronaldo topped Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes for the fourth time in his career, and Spanish golfer Jon Rahm moved up to second after 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 footballer.

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

Ronaldo said on Wednesday that he intends to continue his football career “at a high level” despite nearly entering his 40s.

Two-time major winner Rahm joined LIV Golf in December in a big-money move that sent shock waves through the sport after media reports said the world No. 5 would be paid at least $300m.

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

Third on the list is record eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, who made a lucrative switch to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, helping him earn $135m.

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

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

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

Mbappé announced he would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain after seven years in the French capital, where he became the club’s leading career scorer, and the 25-year-old is expected to join Spanish giants Real Madrid in the 2024-25 season.

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

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

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