Messi earned $127m (£100m) in the last 12 months, compared to Ronaldo’s $109m (£86m), according to Forbes magazine.
Another footballer, Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, is third, with a salary and endorsements amounting to $105m (£83m).
In fifth is tennis legend Roger Federer, with earnings of $93.4 (£73.4m).
There is also a boxer, Canelo Alvarez, two American footballers, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rogers, and three basketball players, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant in the top 10.
Serena Williams returned to the list at number 63, after it contained no women in 2018, with earnings of $29.2m (£23m).
To get on this year’s ranking, an athlete needed to earn at least $25m (£20m).
Ten different sports are represented, with American football, basketball and football following basketball in popularity.
While there are athletes from 25 different countries on the list, Americans take 62 of the places.
The UK has five athletes, France and Spain have three, while Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Serbia and Venezuela all have two.
The figures were calculated by including prize money, salaries and bonuses.
Forbes said endorsement incomes were an “estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders”
The magazine added: “We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees, and we don’t include investment income.”
Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr to be confirmed next week
Joshua’s world heavyweight title reign and unbeaten record were ended by a stunning defeat to Ruiz Jr in New York earlier this month and Hearn has activated a clause to enforce an immediate second fight.
A number of British venues, including the Wembley Stadium, are being considered for a date in November or December.
But Hearn has revealed that Joshua is still open to the idea of staging the return bout at the scene of his first defeat – Maddison Square Garden.
“The job over the next week is just to finalise the details now of just where and when that will be.
“I can’t tell you too much, just because I don’t know other than, between November 16 and December 14 will be the date of the fight. We’ve had offers from five different countries to stage the fight. For me, it’s a straight decision between the UK or America.
“In the UK, we’re talking to Cardiff, to Wembley, to Tottenham and in America, we’ve had a couple of approaches, but our preference is Madison Square Garden.
“A sensible man would say ‘Do it in the UK’.
“Anthony feels as though it would be special to rewrite history and get the win at Madison Square Garden. It’s really not about the money so much, it’s just about where we believe this fight should take place and those decisions will be made in the next week,” Hearn told Sky Sports News.
Transfer: Aubameyang decides on Arsenal future amid Man Utd interest
Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is understood to be looking at the Gabon striker as a potential replacement for Inter Milan-bound Romelu Lukaku.
Defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final sparked speculations that Aubameyang, who netted 32 goals in all competitions last season, could be open to a move away.
However, the 30-year-old wants to continue emulating his boyhood hero, Thierry Henry, by wearing the no.14 shirt for the Gunners.
“I loved my time at Dortmund but when Arsenal called, I was really excited for the challenge.
“I’d always admired Arsenal because of the big history and players like Thierry Henry. He was always an example for strikers and because I am also fast and score goals, I always looked up to him.
“He’s the reason why I took the No 14 shirt. To be honest, when I arrived I actually wanted No.7, but Micki [Henryk Mkhitaryan] had already taken it.
“So I thought, ‘Why not follow in the footsteps of a legend?’ I’m just really proud to wear the 14 shirt and I hope to honour it,” he said.
Aubameyang was signed in January 2018 for a club-record £56million, eclipsing the £46.5m paid for his strike partner, Alexandre Lacazette, seven months earlier.
Luis Enrique resigns as Spain’s coach
Enrique, a former Barcelona coach, will now be replaced by assistant manager, Robert Moreno, Eurosports reports.
Spanish Soccer Federation President, Luis Rubiales made this disclosure at a news conference on Wednesday.
“It was a decision Luis Enrique took himself which we are grateful for. We will have a perfect memory of him. It’s a personal matter which doesn’t depend on us. We think it’s the best thing to do,” Rubiales said.
Enrique has been in charge of Spain less than a year.
Spain had announced Enrique’s absence from the Euro 2020 European Champions qualifier with Malta back in March, citing “an urgent family matter”.
Enrique became Spain’s coach last July after the team’s exit from the 2018 World Cup hosted by Russia.
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