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

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