FC Barcelona forward and Argentina international Lionel Messi has retained his lead at the top of the highest-paid footballers' list. Reportedly, Messi earned approximately $126 million (£98 million) last year. His earnings came through club salary and endorsement deals over the past 12 months.

His on-field arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo is sitting close behind him at the second spot. The duo has yet again been confirmed as the top paid footballers in the world.

The Juventus forward made $117m (£91 million) during the same period. A massive portion of the Portuguese behemoth's earnings came from his paid Instagram posts.

Both Messi and Ronaldo had reportedly taken a pay-cut this summer in order to relieve their employers from financial turmoil caused by the pandemic. Despite that, they were the only footballers to earn over $100 million each.

Paris Saint-Germain footballers Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are third and fourth, earning $96 million (£74.7 million) and $42 million (£32.6 million) respectively. PSG recently reached the UEFA Champions League final where they lost against Bayern Munich. Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has claimed fifth place as the Reds begin defending their Premier League title.

As per the Forbes' list, Paul Pogba made $34 million (£26.5 million), Antoine Griezmann earned $33 million (£25.7 million), and Gareth Bale banked $29 million (£22.6 million).

At number nine is Robert Lewandowski, who made $28 million (£21.8 million), followed by David De Gea on 10th, with $27 million (£21 million) in earnings.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Getty Images

Since last month, Messi had been all over the news. Barcelona's trophy-less campaign in 2019-20 left the 33-year old frustrated. The superstar sent shockwaves across the global football fraternity when he informed his club that he wanted to leave. He has spent his entire career so far at Camp Nou, but his side's 2-8 thrashing against Bayern was too much for him to swallow.

Messi believed he could utilise a specific clause in his contract that allows him to leave for free after every season. However, both Barca and La Liga insisted that his free transfer clause had expired on June 10. Now, the only way he could move to a new club or league would be by paying his transfer fee.

Neither party wanted to end their decades' long relationship with a dispute. After all, Messi is Barcelona's all-time highest goalscorer.

While a standoff between two parties was in place, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was linked to big-money moves to Manchester City, where his former boss Pep Guardiola is in charge. Messi was also linked to Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, and Juventus.

However, the Barcelona veteran performed a dramatic U-turn and decided to stay for another year until his current contract expires in 2021.