The debate over who is the best player in the world has been decided – the top three are Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.
Messi is number one and Beckham takes second place, while Ronaldo comes in just behind the two of them in third place.
This is, of course, not a value judgement but the amount they are estimated to have earned last year – including wages and earnings from sponsorship deals.
Former England captain Beckham had headed the list for a number of years due to the size of his commercial income, which made him a something of a singularity in the football world.
It seems as though the best players in the world are catching up with the LA Galaxy man and have begun to really maximise the income they can gain through commercial deals.
The former Manchester United midfielder is an anomaly when it comes to earnings being compared to prestige on the pitch, as you could never claim Beckham was at any point the best player in the world.
It is an interesting list though, as it gives some indication as to the value of the image of each player and their worth in monetary terms – and it indicates that, most of the time, the best players are earning the most overall.
Barcelona’s leading goal scorer is thought to have earned £27.5million last year, Beckham is close behind with £26.2million and Real’s talisman comes in at £24.3million.
It seems correct that two of the best players in world football are earning the biggest sums of money, but there are a couple of surprises thrown up by the list.
Samuel Eto’o is fourth on the list with estimated earnings of £19.4million from 2011 that, you would imagine, is made up mostly of wages.
He plays for nouveau-riche Russian Premier League Anzhi Makhachkala, who were taken over by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov in January of last year and made the then Inter Milan striker the highest paid player in the world.
It would be safe to assume that this income will be made up largely by wages, as commercial opportunities in Russia are unlikely to be matched by those available in Europe, especially when competing in the UEFA Champions League.
Eto’o is not the only player to appear on the list coming from a club recently taken over by wealthy buyers.
Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure are sixth and seventh on the list, earning £15.7million and 14.7million respectively – the latter being considered the highest earner in the Premier League.
Fernando Torres (£13.9million) of Chelsea comes in at eighth despite having a nightmare year since his £50million pound to Stamford Bridge from Liverpool, whereas Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is in fifth on £17.2million.
While many different people will have differing opinions on whom they believe to be the world’s best player, the direction that sponsorship money is going serves as a good indicator as to the overall popularity of each player.
Beckham’s popularity was not based solely on his playing ability, but he was a pioneer when it came it maximising the commercial value of a footballer’s image.
So, football’s moneymen have spoken: Lionel Messi is the world’s best and most valuable footballer.
The full list can be seen in France Football.