Lionel Messi: The most expensive football player in the world?

    Story highlights

    • Lionel Messi tops list of most expensive football players
    • Messi transfer fee estimated to be worth $262 million
    • Cristiano Ronaldo second on list ahead of Eden Hazard

    (CNN)There may be a constant argument over which player is the best in the world -- but there's no doubting which boasts the highest transfer fee.

    Less than a week before the Ballon d'Or, the award presented to the best player on the planet, one Swiss research group has deemed Lionel Messi as the most expensive in the game.
      According to the Football Observatory, which is part of the International Centre for Sports Studies, Messi leads the way ahead of Real Madrid star and principal rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
      Messi is estimated to be worth $262 million with Portugal's Ronaldo, the reigning world player of the year, some distance behind with an estimated transfer fee of $158 million.
      The two, who will contest the Ballon d'Or in Switzerland on Monday, are also up against Germany's World Cup winning captain Manuel Neuer.
      According to the CIES, the transfer values are calculated "using an exclusive algorithm developed on the basis of over 1,500 fee paying transfers occurred since 2009."
      It also takes into account levels of performance, characteristics and results achieved at both club and international level.
      Eden Hazard ($158 million) and his Chelsea teammate Diego Costa ($100 million) are third and fourth in the list, while Juventus' French midfielder Paul Pogba is the only player in Italian football to make the top 10.
      Pogba, who plays for Juventus, has an estimated value of $86 million which places him ahead of Manchester City's prolific striker Sergio Aguero (£77 million).
      Liverpool's 20-year-old wing wizard Raheem Sterling is ranked sixth on the list after being valued at $75 million, just one million ahead of Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas.
      Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez is ranked ninth after being given a $73 million price tag with Real's Gareth Bale on $71 million.
      Brazil and Barcelona star Neymar is one notable absentee from the top 10, he finished just one place outside ahead of Manchester United's Angel di Maria, Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze and 2014 World Cup star James Rodriguez.