Lionel Messi may have had to stay put at Barcelona but the Argentine legend did succeed in joining one new club this year – the one reserved for sporting billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.
The Argentine superstar's career earnings of over US$1 billion (840 million euros) places the six-time Ballon d'Or winner in a group of mega-wealthy sports figures containing just Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and his great rival on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Forbes said that in 2020 Messi was the best-paid footballer in the world with an income of US$126 million from his Barca salary (US$92 million for the 2020/2021 season) and US$34 million from sponsors and other sources.
The 33-year-old knocked Juventus forward Ronaldo (US$117 million) off the top of the football salary chart with Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar (US$96 million) in third place.
Forbes' top 10 earning players made a combined US$570 million this season, a jump of 11 percent despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to European leagues and the global economy.
Michael Jordan is also in the billionaire's club but the basketball legend's fortune has largely come after retirement through his longstanding contract with Nike and acquisition of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.
Messi remains at Barcelona this season after conceding defeat in his attempt to leave without triggering his 700-million euro release.