Beckham tops Forbes list
David Beckham (Gallo Images)
London - David Beckham, even in the twilight of his playing career, still reigns supreme in the world of football as the highest earning player in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The 35-year-old Beckham earns $40m 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 playing for AC Milan.
Portugal midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo is second on the Forbes list, earning $30m a year. Ronaldo's major sponsors include Nike, Coca-Cola and, like Beckham, Giorgio Armani.
Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, became the highest paid football player in the world in June when Real Madrid bought the 25-year-old winger from Manchester United for $130m. He then signed a six-year contract that pays an estimated $15.5m in the first year, then increases 25% each season.
Brazil playmaker Kaka, Ronaldo's teammate at Madrid, is third on the list, earning $25m annually.
The 28-year-old forward, who won the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Award, was bought from AC Milan for $91m - the second highest recorded transfer fee. Kaka's sponsors include Adidas and Giorgio Armani.
Ronaldinho is fourth on Forbes' list, also earning $25m a year. The 30-year-old Brazil forward, who plays for AC Milan, won the FIFA World Player of the Year Award in 2004 and '05.
Rounding out the top five is France striker Thierry Henry, who makes $24m a year. The 32-year-old Henry plays for Barcelona and has sponsorships with Reebok, Gillette and Pepsi.
Lionel Messi, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, is sixth on the list with earnings of $20m annually. Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is seventh, earning $17m, with teammate John Terry in eighth, earning $16m.
Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ninth, also earning $16m, while Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard earns $15m in 10th place.
On Wednesday, Forbes ranked Manchester United as football's most valuable team. Real Madrid was second and Arsenal was third - the same top three as last year.