Barcelona star Lionel Messi is close to joining Cristiano Ronaldo as a billionaire, according to Forbes.
There are currently only three athletes to achieve that feat, Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and Cristiano Ronaldo who is the first footballer in history to become a billionaire.
Messi will become the fourth billionaire, second after his long time rival Ronaldo if he simply remains at Barcelona for the 2020/2021 season, making him the highest paid footballer in the world.
Forbes also wrote that Ronaldo became world’s most popular celebrity with 443 million social followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and the most marketable athlete in the world too. According to Hookit, which tracks social media sponsorship value, from January to July this year, he created $28 million in value for the brands he promoted through 275 social media posts and the 873 engagements with them. He has a lifetime deal with Nike, a long-term partnership with Herbalife, as well as a lifestyle brand that started with his CR7 line of underwear in 2013 and has expanded to now include shoes, perfume, denim, hotels, gyms and his latest offering introduced this month, sunglasses. Last season, Ronaldo earned $45 million of his $105 million off the pitch.
Messi on the other hand has earned about $33 million annually through endorsement deals with lifetime partner Adidas, Lays, Mastercard, watchmaker Jacob & Co, Qatar-based telecom Ooredoo, and his new signature lifestyle brand launched last year with Ginny Hilfiger, sister of Tommy, at The Messi Store website. Hookit reports that from January to July this year, Messi put up 117 social media posts that received 235 million likes, comments or shares, creating $22 million in marketing value for the brands he promoted.
However, FrujuSports reported that the Argentine star is making moves to leave Barcelona following an embarrassing Champions League exit.
It will be the first time in 12 years the 33-year-old will finish a campaign without any trophy.
However, Barcelona new boss Ronald Koeman has emphasized that he wants Messi as part of his squad.
“He is the best player in the world and the best player in the world you want in your team, you don’t want him playing against you,” Koeman said at a Wednesday press conference.
If Messi chooses to leave Barcelona, he could do like Ronaldo did when he left Real Madrid – make up for a lower gross pay with a tax scheme that keeps his net pay level.
Either way, the billionaire status is his to grab.