Cristiano Ronaldo beats Lionel Messi to become world’s highest-earning athlete of 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 Forbesmagazine’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).

Since the list’s inception in 1990, athletes from individual sports have tended to top the list. Ronaldo is only the second athlete from a team sport to head the rankings, after basketball iconMichael Jordan.

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.

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