Lionel Messi has retained his place at the top of Forbes’ list of highest-paid footballers after earning $126million over the past year, with Cristiano Ronaldo closely behind him in second.
The Barcelona superstar sent shockwaves through world football last month when he told the club he has spent his entire career at he wanted to leave after a trophyless campaign in 2019-20.
Messi believed he could use a clause in his contract to leave for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and insisted his deal could only be terminated should his €700m release clause be paid.
Amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the embattled LaLiga giants for at least the 2020-21 campaign.
He does so as the highest paid footballer in the world after earning $126million in salary and endorsements over the past 12 months.
His long-time rival Ronaldo is second on the list after bringing in earnings of $117m.
Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are third and fourth respectively, with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in fifth place.
Making up the rest of the top 10 are French World Cup winners Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Forbes’ top 10 highest-paid footballers:
1. Lionel Messi – $126m
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – $117m
3. Neymar – $96m
4. Kylian Mbappe – $42m
5. Mohamed Salah – $37m
6. Paul Pogba – $34m
7. Antoine Griezmann – $33m
8. Gareth Bale – $29m
9. Robert Lewandowski – $28m
10. David De Gea – $27m