Unsettled Barcelona icon Lionel Messi has become football’s second-ever billionaire after Forbes estimated that the Argentine star’s pre-tax career earnings have now exceeded $1 billion.
Messi will be the sport’s highest-paid player in 2020, per Forbes, on course to earn $126million (£98million) this calendar year – a figure which is split between his $92million (£72million) salary and endorsement deals valued at $34million (£26million).
Messi’s bottom line is considerably enhanced by sponsorship deals with high-profile brands like Adidas, Pepsi and Budweiser.
Somewhat predictably, Messi beat his age-old rival Cristiano Ronaldo into second place in the list of footballers’ finances, with Messi’s former Barca teammate Neymar listed in third position.
Ronaldo is on course to rake in $117million (£91million) this year, with Neymar’s bank balance expected to be bolstered to the tune of $96million (£75million).
Messi’s bottom line will no doubt come as some consolation after his public standoff with the Barcelona hierarchy last month surrounding his desire to leave the club.
In the end, Messi was convinced to stay after a dispute of the interpretation of legal terms in his contract – and he said that he didn’t have any intention of taking his boyhood club to court over the issue.
His desire to leave Catalunya may well raise its head once again next summer when he will again be entitled to leave on a free transfer, and potentially get a contract with another European financial powerhouse which could further inflate his yearly takings.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have two players among the ten best paid in the world. Paul Pogba rakes in $34million (£26.4 million) per year, while the occasionally error prone David De Gea earns $27million (£21 million).