London: Lionel Messi was denied a potentially money-spinning move away from Barcelona this month after a contract-dispute but the Argentine maestro remains the world’s richest soccer player.
According to a list compiled by Forbes, Messi’s total earnings this year are $126 million — $92 million from his salary and $34 million in endorsements.
Not surprisingly Cristiano Ronaldo comes in second although earnings of $117 million will soften the blow for the Juventus forward, as will his status as the most followed soccer player in the world on social media.
Neymar comes in third on the Forbes list ($96 million) with his Paris St Germain team mate, 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe, up in fourth spot ($42 million).
The Premier League remains the world’s richest domestic soccer league but only two of its outfield players feature in the top 10 of the wealth table — Liverpool’s title-winning striker Mohamed Salah in fifth spot ($37 million) and Manchester United’s midfielder Paul Pogba ($34 million) in sixth. Pogba’s team mate, keeper David de Gea ($27 million) is 10th.
Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann was seventh and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale eighth. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only Bundesliga player, in ninth.
Messi reluctantly agreed to stay at Barcelona for another season this month, despite saying in the wake of an 8-2 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich that he wanted out.
He argued that a clause in his contract stating that a 700 million euros release fee would need to be met for him to join another club was no longer active and that he could leave on a free transfer — a situation that would have allowed him to command astronomical wages from the likes of Manchester City.
Messi, 33, is in the final year of his contract so could leave for free next summer. By staying with the Catalan club, Messi is in line for an $83 million loyalty bonus so it is likely he will continue to top the money charts.