Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Who is the world's most marketable athlete?

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the most recognisable people on the planet.

Even if you know absolutely nothing about sport or football, you've probably heard of the Barcelona and Juventus superstars at the very least - and for good reason, at that.

Aside from being the two most talented footballers of a generation, winning a combined 11 Ballon d'Or titles to prove it, they also happened to be two of the most marketable.

Ronaldo and Messi's huge profiles

You only need to look at the fact Ronaldo is the most followed person on Instagram or that Messi rakes home more money from his Barcelona contract than any of his rivals.

Both players boast lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Adidas and Nike, while Ronaldo literally rakes home thousands for merely endorsing products on his social media pages.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Forbes reported this year that Ronaldo and Messi are the first and second billionaires in footballing history respectively.

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Money-earning superstars

The moral of the story here is that Ronaldo and Messi's bank accounts probably aren't lacking many zeroes and credit to them when you consider their alien achievements on the pitch.

And their incredible rises to the sporting summit have only been corroborated this week by a study from SportsPro that named Ronaldo and Messi as the world's two most marketable athletes.

In the end, it was Messi that came out victorious, but it's credit to the two footballing superstars that they were able to oust big names from other sports to grab the gold and silver medals.

The full top 50 is 'powered by Nielsen’s athlete marketability assessment methodology' and was calculated after 12 months studying the Instagram accounts of more than 6,000 sportspeople.

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50 most marketable athletes

It's a pretty thorough examination into the profiles of these sporting superstars and it only makes sense to see who ran Ronaldo and Messi the closest, so check out the full list down below:

50. Russell Westbrook (basketball)

49. Mikaela Shiffrin (skiing)

48. Ashleigh Barty (tennis)

47. Dorothea Wierer (biathlon)

46. Katelyn Ohashi (gymnastics)

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45. Katrín Davíðsdóttir (crossfit)

44. Giannis Antetokounmpo (basketball)

43. Zion Williamson (basketball)

42. Anthony Davis (basketball)

41. Carissa Moore (surfing)

40. Bethany Hamilton (surfing)

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39. Dele Alli (football)

38. Kelia Termini (surfing)

37. Charles Leclerc (motor sport)

36. Luka Doncic (basketball)

35. Roger Federer (tennis)

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34. Son Heung-min (football)

33. Naomi Osaka (tennis)

32. Tyson Fury (boxing)

31. Anthony Joshua (boxing)

30. Tom Brady (American football)  

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29. Anna Gasser (snowboarding)

28. Rafael Nadal (tennis)

27. Sky Brown (skateboarding)

26. Patrick Mahomes (American football)

25. Megan Rapinoe (football)

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24. Jorge Masvidal (MMA)

23. Virgil van Dijk (football)

22. Dina Asher-Smith (athletics)

21. Lewis Hamilton (motor sport)

20. Robert Lewandowski (football)

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19. Paul Pogba (football)

18. Coco Gauff (tennis)

17. Alex Morgan (football)

16. Erling Braut Haaland (football)

15. Kylian Mbappe (football)

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14. Simone Biles (gymnastics)

13. Steph Curry (basketball)

12. Ryan Garcia (boxing)

11. Eden Hazard (football)

10. Paulo Dybala (football) 

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9. Mohamed Salah (football)

8. Rohit Sharma (cricket)

7. Khabib Nurmagomedov (MMA)

6. Neymar (football)

5. Bianca Andreescu (tennis)

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4. Virat Kohli (cricket)

3. LeBron James (basketball)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (football)

1. Lionel Messi (football)

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Messi edges out Ronaldo

So, Messi takes the gold medal by a nose-hair with an 'athlete influencer score' of 115 that, perhaps surprisingly, edges of Ronaldo with his total of 113.

We say 'surprisingly' because Ronaldo earns the most money out of sponsorships and endorsements in the beautiful game, not to mention his superior Instagram following.

Both players are given a rating of 50 for 'reach' and 5 for 'relevance', Ronaldo wins 'resonance' with 24 and Messi sneaks into the lead with a rating of 37 for 'return'.

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But credit to both players for being able to transcend sport and culture with their remarkable output in the world of football, surpassing the likes of James, Kohil and Nurmagomedov.

As to which athletes are the most talented as opposed to marketable, however, is an entirely different and much fiercer debate.

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