Money men: Soccer's richest stars

Story highlights

  • France Football magazine declares Lionel Messi the world's highest-earning player
  • It says Argentina striker earned $52 million in wages and sponsorships in 2011
  • Second on the list is former England captain David Beckham after taking home $50 million
  • Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is third on the list after collecting $46 million

Lionel Messi is widely regarded as the world's best footballer -- and now it seems the Argentina star is also unrivaled among his peers off the field.

David Beckham has long been the sport's biggest earner even in his declining years, due to his lucrative endorsement deals, but the former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar has been eclipsed by Barcelona's magician.

The three-time World Player of the Year was unveiled by France Football magazine as the highest-earning player in soccer on Tuesday, collecting €33 million ($52 million) in wages and endorsements during 2011.

The 24-year-old, who has scored 51 goals for the Catalan giants in all competitions, headed a list which placed Los Angeles Galaxy's former England captain Beckham in second on $50 million.

Beckham recently signed a new contract with the Galaxy, and unveiled a clothing line with Swedish retailer H & M earlier this year.

Messi's on-field rival Cristiano Ronaldo also featured highly. The Portugal forward's total earnings of $46 million in 2011 put him third ahead of Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon.

Eto'o secured a lucrative move from Inter Milan to big-spending Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala in August 2011 and he has reportedly banked $37 million.

Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney was fifth on the list with $32.6 million, while the Manchester City duo of Argentina's Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast took home $29.7 million and $27.8 million respectively.

Completing the top 10 were Chelsea striker Fernando Torres ($26.4 million), Real playmaker Kaka ($24.5 million) and Bayern Munich's Germany captain Philipp Lahm ($22.6 million).

France Football is one of Europe's leading sports magazines, and it formerly organized the Ballon d'Or awards for the continent's top achievers.

The Ballon d'Or has now merged with ruling body FIFA's world player of the year awards.