Messi edges out Ronaldo as world's highest-paid footballer

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Lionel Messi has retained his place at the top of Forbes' list of highest-paid footballers after earning $126million USD ($172M AUD) 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 ($1.14billion AUD) 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 ($160M AUD). 

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 ($172M AUD)
2. Cristiano Ronaldo - $117m ($160M AUD)
3. Neymar - $96m ($131M AUD)
4. Kylian Mbappe - $42m ($57M AUD)
5. Mohamed Salah - $37m ($51M AUD)
6. Paul Pogba - $34m ($46M AUD)
7. Antoine Griezmann - $33m ($45M AUD)
8. Gareth Bale - $29m ($40M AUD)
9. Robert Lewandowski - $28m ($38M AUD)
10. David De Gea - $27m ($36M AUD)

Source Omnisport