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Messi Most Marketable Athlete 2023

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Lionel Messi Named World’s Most Marketable Athlete in 2023 with Record MLS Salary

In a remarkable double achievement, Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi has once again clinched the title of the world's most marketable athlete for 2023, as reported by SportsPro. This places Messi in a category matched by only one other athlete in the history of the 50 Most Marketable Athletes (50MM) rankings by SportsPro.

An Exclusive Achievement

This year's recognition marks Messi's second time at the top of the 50MM rankings, emphasizing his enduring global appeal and commercial influence. His previous achievement in 2020 was already historic, and now he becomes the second athlete ever to secure this accolade twice.

The Elite Top Five

Following Messi in the rankings is NBA icon LeBron James, highlighting the global appeal of both soccer and basketball stars. Alex Morgan, a prominent player for the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), claimed the third position. NBA sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo and Messi’s USWNT counterpart Megan Rapinoe round off the top five, showcasing the incredible diversity in this year's list. To finish the  top ten we find Mikaela Shiffrin (6th place), Lewis Hamilton (7th), Simone Biles (8th), Kylian Mbappe (9th) and Max Verstappen (10th).

Shift in the Rankings

The list also saw a significant shift compared to the previous year. Cristiano Ronaldo, who held the top spot in 2022, slipped to the 27th position. Indian cricket sensation Virat Kohli, who was ranked seventh in 2022, didn't make the top 50 this year, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of athlete marketability.

Empowering Women in Sports

One of the most noteworthy trends in this year's rankings is the rising influence and value of women in sports. Four female athletes secured spots in the top ten, emphasizing the growing commercial momentum in women's sports. Female athletes constituted nearly 50% of the top 50, indicating the increasing recognition and support for women in the sports industry. US Open tennis champion Coco Gauff, at just 19 years old, emerged as the most marketable teenager, securing the 12th position.

Diverse Representation

Soccer, basketball, tennis, and motorsport continue to dominate the list, showcasing their widespread commercial appeal. However, other major international sports had limited representation, with no rugby players making the cut. Surprisingly, there were no Major League Baseball (MLB) players in the top 50. The list did feature college sports stars Angel Reese and Olivia Dunne, underscoring the growing significance of name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights.

The Methodology

SportsPro's 50MM list, now in its 14th year, was compiled with the support of NorthStar Solutions Group, using an enhanced methodology for a more comprehensive assessment of athlete marketability. This year's methodology incorporated both qualitative and quantitative research, offering deeper insights into the evolving trends in sports marketing.

Messi's Record MLS Salary

Apart from his marketability, Messi made headlines by joining Major League Soccer (MLS). Messi's impact on the MLS has been immense, with 11 goals and 5 assists in 13 games, including a Leagues Cup victory.

In an official update to player salaries by the MLS, it was revealed that Messi receives an annual base salary of €11.4 million from his club, Inter Miami, and with bonuses and agent fees included, his total earnings approach €20 million.

Deals Beyond the Pitch

Notably, these figures exclude deals with external partners, meaning Messi stands to earn even more from his American adventure. Reports suggest that he receives a portion of subscription fees from rights holder Apple and holds a significant percentage of Miami, or potentially a future club, worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Top 10 Highest-Paid MLS Players

Lionel Messi (Arg) - Inter Miami: €19.4 million

Lorenzo Insigne (Ita) - Toronto FC: €14.6 million

Xherdan Shaqiri (Zwi) - Chicago Fire: €7.8 million

Javier Hernandez (Mex) - Toronto FC: €7 million

Federico Bernardeschi (Ita) - Toronto FC: €6 million

Sébastian Driussi (Arg) - Austin FC: €5.7 million

Héctor Herrera (Mex) - Houston Dynamo: €4.9 million

Douglas Costa (Bra) - LA Galaxy: €4.3 million

Christian Benteke (Bel) - Atlanta United: €4.2 million

Josef Martinez (Ven) - DC United: €4.1 million

Transparency and Fair Play in MLS

While European football clubs often keep player salaries confidential, the MLS has embraced transparency, believing that it promotes financial fair play. The salary cap, introduced in the MLS since 2021, imposes a maximum annual salary of €600.000 on players, excluding bonuses such as signing fees or agent commissions. The designated player rule allows each club to have three players exempt from this cap, an exception aimed at attracting star players, especially from Europe, and improving the league's competitiveness.

In summary, Lionel Messi's stature as the most marketable athlete in the world is not only a testament to his global appeal but also coincides with his record-breaking earnings in the MLS, further solidifying his status as a global sporting icon.

Sources: SportsProMedia, Sporza, Pexels

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