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Top 20 earners in football: Barcelona star Messi now dominating on and off pitch

Is football becoming a young man's game?

Certainly, in terms of earnings for the game's elite players the latest research suggests so.

France Football's release last week of the top 20 earners in the game saw the top three places taken by Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Wayne Rooney (Manchester United). All under 27 years of age. And the mean average age of the richest top 20 was found to be 25.1 - a result never before seen in the game.

The top three all took a hit on their previous year's earnings, but in the cases of Messi and Ronaldo, they still far outstrip all others in what they earned from the game in 2010.

The difference is more stark when you consider only endorsement income.

Messi raked in €21 million from sponsorships last year compared to Ronaldo's €14 million. Way, way back in third place is Rooney, who took home €7 million in 2010.

Messi is now the biggest seller in the sport - even surpassing LA Galaxy star David Beckham. The Argentine boasts deals with Adidas, Nintendo, Pepsi, Lay's and Gatorade.

But despite now being synonymous with MLS and American soccer, Brand Beckham is still popular - so much so that the England veteran raked in €14.5 million from off-field endorsements last year - placing him only behind Messi in sponsorship value.

 Top 20 earners from 2010:

1. Lionel Messi (ARG/FC Barcelona) : €31M (€10M salary, €1M bonuses, €20M endorsements)Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid) : €27.5M (€13M, €0.5M, €14M)Wayne Rooney (ENG/Manchester Utd) : €20.7M (€13.2M, €0.5M, €7M)Real Madrid) : €19.3M (€10M, €0.3M, €9M)David Beckham (ENG/Los Angeles Galaxy) : €19M (€4.1M, €0.4M, €14.5M)Flamengo) : €18.3M (€7.5M, €3.3M, €7.5M)Carlos Tevez (ARG/Man City) : €15,4M (€10M, €3M, €2.4M)Frank Lampard (ENG/Chelsea) : €14.2M (€8.2M, €1M, €5M)Fernando Torres (SPA/Chelsea) : €14M (€8M, €0.8, €5.2M)Manchester City) : €13.8M (€11.1M, €0.5M, €2.2M)Thierry Henry (FRA/New York Red Bulls) : €13.6M (€4.1M, €3.5M, €6M)Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER/Bayern Munich) : €13.2M (€8M, €1.2, €4M)Samuel Eto'o (CAM/Inter Milan) : €13M (€9M, €2M, €2M)Philipp Lahm (GER/Bayern Munich) : €12.9M (€10M, €1.1M, €1.8M)Didier Drogba (CIV/Chelsea) : €12.8M (€7.5M, €0.8M, €4.5M)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE/Milan AC) : €12.5M (€9M, €1M, €2.5M)Bayern Munich) : €11.9M (€10M, €0.8, €1.1M)Steven Gerrard (ENG/Liverpool) : €11.7M (€7.2M, €0.5M, €4M)Carles Puyol (SPA/FC Barcelona) : €11.4M (€8.5M, €1.4M, €1.5M)Gianluigi Buffon (ITA/Juventus) : €11.3M (€6M, €0.1M, €5.2M)

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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