Lionel Messi has emerged Number 1 in SportsPro’s 2020 list of the World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes, with his rival Cristiano Ronaldo finishing in second spot.
The two lead the field globally, ahead of NBA star LeBron James and India cricket captain Virat Kohli, but it’s a shock to see the Barcelona player placed ahead of his rival at Juventus.
CR7 has often been listed as the world’s most marketable athlete and is the planet’s most followed person on Instagram (238 million compared to Messi’s 167 million).
But Messi is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner and SportsPro’s study allowed for factors such as “social following, content engagement, fanbase growth over time, media value, and the performance of branded versus organic content.”
There is an argument that because Ronaldo is seen to work with a greater number of sponsors and brands than Messi, the Argentine might be perceived as therefore more valuable to those he does choose to endorse.
According to reports it was reportedly “narrow” between the pair, who are undoubtedly the two most high-profile sportspeople on the planet. And there can be little argument with their putting the face of the NBA James in third, while Kohli – a sporting idol across India – is in fourth.
The top five is rounded out by the highest-placed female athlete: Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu, who won the US Open in 2019.
Football players dominate the list with three more in the top 10 alone: Brazil superstar Neymar (sixth), Liverpool’s Mo Sallah (Ninth) and Ronaldo’s teammate at Juventus, Paulo Dybala (10th).