ronaldo
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is reported to have earned $88m last year Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo has become the first footballer ever to be named the highest-paid athlete in the world by Forbes magazine, beating Barcelona's Lionel Messi into second place. The Real Madrid star was ranked first after earning $88m (£61m) last year, with Messi earning $81.4m and Cleveland Cavaliers basketballer LeBron James coming in third with $77.2m.

According to Forbes, this is the first time a sports star has been placed at the top spot who isn't Floyd Mayweather or Tiger Woods since 2011. The boxer was named the highest-paid athlete in 2015, mainly due to the pay packet he received following his fight with Manny Pacquiao.

Despite retiring and having only fought once last year, Mayweather still earned $44m and was placed 16th in the top 100 list.

Elsewhere, tennis legend Roger Federer came in fourth with $67.8m. A massive $60m of this amount comes from endorsements for the 34-year-old, with Federer failing to win a Grand Slam during 2015. Oklahoma City Thunder basketballer Kevin Durant comes in fifth place with $56.2m.

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is the highest-placed Briton to appear on the list at 11th place with earnings of $46m, with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale highest-paid British footballer with $35.9m putting him in 25th place. Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scrapes into the top 50 in 49th position after earning $26.1m last year.

Serena Williams becomes the highest-paid female athlete, but the tennis icon is still way behind many of her male stars, earning $28.9m placing her in 40th place.

Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao
Floyd Mayweather was ranked the highest-paid sports star by Forbes in 2015Getty

In the top 100 list, baseball players appear the most with 26 stars, with Clayton Kershaw the highest-paid at 33 with $32 million. The next most prevalent sports are the NFL (21 ), NBA (18) and football (12).

In total, the top 100 highest-paid sports stars in the world earned a total of $3.15bn over the past 12 months, slightly below last year's record total of $3.22bn.

Top 20 Highest paid sports stars

RankNameTotal paySalary/WinningsEndorsementsSport
#1Cristiano Ronaldo$88 M$56 M$32 MFootball
#2Lionel Messi$81.4 M$53.4 M$28 MFootball
#3LeBron James$77.2 M$23.2 M$54 MBasketball
#4Roger Federer$67.8 M$7.8 M$60 MTennis
#5Kevin Durant$56.2 M$20.2 M$36 MBasketball
#6Novak Djokovic$55.8 M$21.8 M$34 MTennis
#7Cam Newton$53.1 M$41.1 M$12 MUS football
#8Phil Mickelson$52.9 M$2.9 M$50 MGolf
#9Jordan Spieth$52.8 M$20.8 M$32 MGolf
#10Kobe Bryant$50 M$25 M$25 MBasketball
#11Lewis Hamilton$46 M$42 M$4 MRacing
#12Tiger Woods$45.3 M$274 K$45 MGolf
#13Eli Manning$45 M$37 M$8 MUS Football
#14Joe Flacco$44.5 M$44 M$500 KUS Football
#15Tom Brady$44.1 M$36.1 M$8 MUS Football
#16Floyd Mayweather$44 M$32 M$12 MBoxing
#17Rory McIlroy$42.6 M$7.6 M$35 MGolf
#18Russell Wilson$41.8 M$31.8 M$10 MUS Football
#19Sebastian Vettel$41 M$40 M$1 MRacing
#20Philip Rivers$38 M$37.5 M$450 KUS Football