Lionel Messi ranked as the world's biggest-earning sportsman in Forbes' 2019 list

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At 31 years of age, Lionel Messi continues to defy belief. 

The Argentine is the hot favourite for the Ballon d'Or this year following his breathtaking performances in the Champions League and his role in Barcelona's latest La Liga title. 

This calendar year alone, he has already scored 34 goals. 

Inevitably, going hand-in-hand with those incredible statistics is another year of financial pulling power. 

The earning potential of elite athletes is now higher than ever due to TV rights, sponsorships, and advertising. 

Messi has made the most of those endorsements, on top of his estimated €40million salary which he receives from Barcelona. 

Indeed, he has now been officially named as top of Forbes' sports rich-list after picking up $127m.

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Cristiano Ronaldo is the only ever footballer to have topped the list previously.

That's chiefly because those in team sports will almost always trail individual athletes who reap all the rewards themselves. 

It's also noteworthy that the majority of sportsmen on the list are from the US - 62, to be precise, compared to 38 from other countries. 

The full list is as follows:

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What Messi will crave most of all, however, will not be the off-field rewards associated with his glittering career. 

A major international trophy continues to elude him - and no, we're not going to count the Copa San Juan that he won at the weekend. 

The Barcelona forward has the chance to change that at the Copa America and as time ticks on, he is running out of chances to get that particular monkey off his back. 

That has not deterred any of his financial backers, though, and the allure of arguably the greatest player of all time remains as strong as ever. 

Is Messi the greatest sportsman in the world? Have your say in the comments. 

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