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Big earners gaining on Beckham

David Beckham remains soccer's highest earning player, according to Forbes. Of the $40 million he earned in 2009, nearly $33 million came from endorsements. But the fading star may soon be replaced at the top of the list. Cristiano Ronaldo, ranked second behind Beckham in earnings last year with $30 million in salary and endorsements.

The Portuguese attacker became the most expensive player in the world last summer when Real Madrid paid Manchester United a record $130 million transfer fee for him. The 24-year-old inked a six-year contract that is estimated to pay $15.5 million at the outset and increase 25 percent each season. In total, he could command $304 million from the club.

Ronaldo earned $16 million in endorsements in 2009, but while more than 80 percent of Beckham’s earnings come from sponsors, Ronaldo is making half his money off the field. Reigning “best player in the world,” Argentine Lionel Messi of Barcelona, is sixth on the list with $20 million and has the best shot to capitalize on endorsements. His over $5 million from sponsors, including Adidas and Konami, is likely to increase significantly.

Third on the list is Kaka ($25 million), followed by Ronaldinho ($25 million), Thierry Henry ($24 million), Messi, Frank Lampard ($17 million), John Terry ($16 million), Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($16 million) and Steve Gerrard ($15 million).

Read the whole story at Forbes.com »

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