Ronaldo, Messi highest paid athletes in the world

Getty Images

Forbes released its yearly fiscal evaluation for the 2016 year, and there were few surprises as Cristiano Ronaldo topped the list of individual athlete earnings, while Lionel Messi was right behind him.

According to the Forbes Money Index, Ronaldo earned a total of $88 million between his Real Madrid salary and outside endorsements in 2016. Messi was at the #2 spot with $81.4 million.

Ronaldo becomes the first soccer player ever to top the rankings since they began in 1990, and is only the second from a team sport after Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods and Floyd Mayweather had a chokehold on the top spot the last few years, but with Mayweather retired and Woods injured and performing poorly, Ronaldo seized the opening.

At 31 years old, Ronaldo signed a brand new contract with Real Madrid at the end of 2016 that runs all the way through 2021. These rankings, however, take into account his old deal, which he played on for much of the 2016 calendar year.

You have to look down to the 20’s to find the next soccer stars, where Messi’s Barcelona teammate Neymar sits at #21 and Manchester United frontman Zlatan Ibrahimovic right behind him at #23. Those two, however, earned their money in vastly different manners, with Neymar earning more than half of his $37.5 million haul via endorsements, while $30 million of Zlatan’s $37 million total came directly from the Red Devils’ pocket. Ronaldo’s Real Madrid co-attacker Gareth Bale is at #25, and Wayne Rooney just managed to stay in the Top 50 at #49.

The totals in Forbes’ list do not deduct taxes, and do not include agent fees.