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Messi tops football's rich list, ahead of rival Ronaldo

London

ARGENTINA football star Lionel Messi was denied a potentially money-spinning move away from Barcelona earlier this month after a contract-dispute, but the 33-year-old remains the world's richest player.

According to a list compiled by Forbes, Messi's total earnings this year are US$126 million - US$92 million from his salary and US$34 million in endorsements.

Not surprisingly, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo comes in second although earnings of US$117 million will soften the blow for the Juventus forward, as will his status as the most followed footballer in the world on social media.

Brazilian striker Neymar comes in third on the Forbes list (US$96 million) with his Paris Saint Germain teammate, 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe, in fourth spot (US$42 million).

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The English Premier League remains the world's richest domestic football league but only two of its outfield players feature in the top 10 of the wealth table - Liverpool's title-winning striker Mohamed Salah in fifth spot (US$37 million) and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba (US$34 million) in sixth.

Pogba's team mate, goalkeeper David de Gea from Spain is 10th (US$27 million).

Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann was seventh and Real Madrid's Gareth Bale eighth. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only player from Germany's Bundesliga, is ninth.

Messi reluctantly agreed to stay at Barcelona for another season this month, despite saying in the wake of an embarrassing 8-2 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich that he wanted to leave.

He argued that a clause in his contract stating that a 700 million euros (S$1.13 billion) release fee would need to be met for him to join another club was no longer active and that he could leave on a free transfer - a situation that would have allowed him to command astronomical wages from the likes of Manchester City.

Messi is now in the final year of his contract so could still leave for free next summer.

By staying at Barcelona, Messi is in line for a handsome US$83 million loyalty bonus so it is likely he will continue to top the money charts next year as well. REUTERS

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