Beckham leads Forbes list of highest earners
Forbes magazine says David Beckham still reigns supreme as soccer's top-earning player.
The 35-year-old midfielder earns $40 million annually, with much of that coming from sponsors such as Adidas, Giorgio Armani and Motorola. But Beckham is expected to lose major sponsorship money this year because he will miss the World Cup in South Africa after tearing his Achilles' tendon in March while on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy to AC Milan.
Portuguese midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo is second on the Forbes list, earning $30 million a year. Ronaldo's major sponsors include Nike, Coca-Cola and, like Beckham, Giorgio Armani.
Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA Player of the Year, became the highest paid soccer player in the world in June when Real Madrid bought the 25-year-old winger from Manchester United for $130 million. He signed a six-year contract that pays an estimated $15.5 million in the first year, then increases 25 percent each season.
Brazilian playmaker Kaka, Ronaldo's teammate at Madrid, is third on the list, earning $25 million annually.
The 28-year-old, who won the 2007 FIFA Player of the Year, was bought from AC Milan for $91 million - the second-highest known transfer fee. Kaka's sponsors include Adidas and Giorgio Armani.
Ronaldinho is fourth on Forbes' list, also earning $25 million a year. The 30-year-old Brazilian forward, who plays for AC Milan, was FIFA Player of the Year in 2004 and '05.
Rounding out the top five is French forward Thierry Henry, who makes $24 million a year. The 32-year-old plays for Barcelona and has sponsorships with Reebok, Gillette and Pepsi. There has been talk he could transfer this summer to Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.
Lionel Messi, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, is sixth on the list with earnings of $20 million annually. Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is seventh, earning $17 million, with teammate John Terry in eighth at $16 million.
Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ninth, also at $16 million, followed by Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard at $15 million.
On Wednesday, Forbes ranked Manchester United as soccer's most valuable team. Real Madrid was second and Arsenal was third - the same top three as last year.