Cristiano Ronaldo crowned world’s highest-earning athlete for 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo has beaten his long-standing rival Lionel Messi to be named the world’s highest-earning athlete in 2016.

The Real Madrid forward tops Forbes magazine’s list for the first time, having earned $88million (£70.6m) last year, up from $80m (£64.2m) in 2015. Messi, meanwhile, follows in second-place with his income totalling $81m ($65m).

LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers small forward, is third in the list having earned $77.2m (£61.9m), while tennis’ Roger Federer ($67.8m/£54.4m) and the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant ($56.2m/£45.1m) complete the top five.

Tiger Woods and Floyd Mayweather, two athletes who have dominated Forbes’ rankings in the recent past, placed 12th and 16th after relatively inactive years on the golf course and in the boxing ring respectively.

Alongside Ronaldo, Messi is the only other footballer to place in Forbes’ top 20. His team-mate Neymar ranks joint-21st with Rafael Nadal, who both earned $37.5m (£30.1m).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic follows in 23rd-place ($37.4m/£30m) and Wales international Gareth Bale ($35.9m/£28.8m) completes the top 25.

Forbes Sports Money Index 2016, top 20 athletes

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo , football, £70.5m
  2. Lionel Messi , football, £65.2m
  3. LeBron James , basketball, £61.8m
  4. Roger Federer , tennis, £54.3m
  5. Kevin Durant , basketball, £45m
  6. Novak Djokovic , tennis, £44.7m
  7. Cam Newton , American football, £42.5m
  8. Phil Mickelson , golf, £42.4m
  9. Jordan Spieth , golf, £42.3m
  10. Kobe Bryant , basketball, £40m
  11. Lewis Hamilton , Formula One, £36.8m
  12. Tiger Woods , golf, £36.3m
  13. Eli Manning , American football, £36m
  14. Joe Flacco , American football, £35.6m
  15. Tom Brady , American football, £35.3m
  16. Floyd Mayweather , boxing, £35.2m
  17. Rory McIlroy , golf, £34.1m
  18. Russell Wilson , American football, £33.5m
  19. Sebastian Vettel , Formula One, £32.8m
  20. Philip Rivers , American football, £30.4m