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MESSI TOPS FORBES’ HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETE LIST FOR 2022

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Lionel Messi was the world’s highest-paid athlete over the last year, according to the annual Forbes list released on Wednesday that had the Paris Saint-Germain forward ahead of the NBA’s LeBron James and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi earned $130million (£107m), a figure which includes $55million (£45m) of endorsements, during the 12-month period ended May 1, 2022, to sit atop the list of the 10 highest-paid athletes a year after finishing second to Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

McGregor has now fallen out of the top 10 and hasn’t fought since his defeat by Dustin Poirier last summer, when he broke his leg in the fight, and his earnings have taken a hit as a consequence. He was estimated to have earned £127m last year.

Sir Lewis Hamilton is another notable omission. Last year he was eighth in the list with £58m, a decline of almost half on 2020, and this time around he does not make the top 10 at all.

Messi, meanwhile, left boyhood club Barcelona last summer and headed to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

But an interesting facet of the Forbes report is that he has earned £45m in endorsement.

He has taken on an array of sponsorships outside of football, some of which have been controversial.

Just this week, he was pictured shortly after landing in Saudi Arabia as an ambassador for tourism, despite families of prisoners of conscience in the country urging him earlier this year not to get involved in any partnerships with the nation.

Los Angeles Lakers forward James is second on the list after bringing home a combined $121million (£99m), shattering the $96.5million (£79m) record for an NBA player that he set last year, while Ronaldo earned $115million (£94m) to sit third.

The Portugal captain sealed an emotional return to United last summer, leaving Italian giants Juventus after three seasons. He also turned down a $6m offer to work commercially with Saudi Arabia last year.

His £385,000-a-week wage will fall next season though if he remains at United. The Red Devils have failed to qualify for the lucrative Champions League next season and as Sportsmail reported on the weekend, it means Ronaldo will earn £288,000-a-week at United if he’s there for the 2022-23 season.

Brazil and PSG star Neymar, Messi’s team-mate, ($95million – £78m) and three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry ($92.8million – £76m) of the Golden State Warriors rounded out the top five.

FORBES TOP 10 RICH LIST
1: Lionel Messi – £107m ($130m)

2: LeBron James – £99m ($121m)

3: Cristiano Ronaldo – £94m ($115m)

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4: Neymar – £78m ($95m)

5: Stephen Curry – £76m ($92.8m)

6: Kevin Durant – £74.8m ($92m)

7: Roger Federer – £74.4m ($90.7m)

8: Canelo Alvarez – £73.7m ($90m)

9: Tom Brady – £68.7m ($83.9m)

10: Giannis Antetokounmpo – £66.3m ($80.9m)

NBA player Kevin Durant ($92million – £74.8m) was sixth while Swiss tennis great Roger Federer, who played five tournaments in 2021 before a knee operation curtailed his season, was third with total earnings of $90.7million (£74.4m).

There had been fears that those knee issues could force Federer, who is now 40, into retirement.

While he is yet to play in 2022, he shared pictures from the gym on his Instagram account last month with the caption ‘rehab is rockingggg’.

The final three spots on the list went to Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez ($90million – £73.7m), seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady ($83.9million – £68.7m) and reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo ($80.9million – £66.3m).

Alvarez was surprisingly beaten by Dmitry Bivol at the weekend, the first loss of his career, but defeated Billy Joe Saunders last May in a hotly anticipated showdown.

Brady, 44, announced his NFL retirement earlier this year, only to change his mind and agree to one more season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While the details of Brady’s 2022 deal with the Bucs is unclear, last year’s terms saw him earn in the region of $25m.

Forbes said its on-the-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned during the 12-month period while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income.

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NZEKWU HEADS BASKETBALL’S INTERIM MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

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Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare

The Federal Government, yesterday, named Abuja-based medical doctor and PR consultant, Dr. Henry Onyia Nzekwu, as head of a 10-man interim management committee to oversee the development of Nigerian basketball.

The government recently withdrew the country from international engagements for two years following the leadership crisis that has dogged the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) for more than six years.

Others in the management committee are ​Mr. Udon Ubon Humapwa, Mr. Frank Jitubhoh, a representative of Zenith Bank, Prof. Adamu Ahmed, a director in the Federal Ministry of Sports, Mr. Peter Nelson, Group Captain Rahinatu Garba, Coach Aderemi Adewunmi, Oluchi Nzekwe and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sani Adio.

A statement by the Federal Ministry of Sports, signed by Director, Press and Public Relations, Manga Mohammed, reads: “Following the recent directives of President Muhammadu Buhari on the state of basketball in the country and its withdrawal from all International basketball competitions for the next two years, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has announced the members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the development of the sport in Nigeria.

“The Committee is to draw up programmes that will revamp basketball from the grassroots in Nigeria, revive its moribund domestic leagues and attract cooperate sponsors for the development of the game.”

The Federal Government had on May 12, 2022, announced the withdrawal of Nigeria from international competitions for two years, citing the “unending crises that have plagued and nearly crippled basketball development in the country.”

Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, explained that the move would provide government opportunity to revamp the sport from the grassroots, as well as revive the domestic leagues, which have become moribund.

He added that government would utilise the period of break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders.

Recall that the NBBF crisis came to a head on January 31, 2022 when two separate boards of the federation emerged in elections held in Abuja and Benin.

The Abuja NBBF faction election produced Igoche Mark as the body’s president, while the polls in Benin returned Musa Kida as the federation’s boss.

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NEW MAN UNITED BOSS TEN HAG AIMS TO SMASH LIVERPOOL-CITY DUOPOLY

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Erik Ten Hag

Manchester United’s new manager Erik ten Hag believes it is possible to end the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool despite taking over a struggling side that finished a lowly sixth in the Premier League.

United ended up 35 points behind champions City, who pipped Liverpool to the title by a point, as the Red Devils registered their lowest-ever Premier League points tally.

City boss Pep Guardiola has now claimed four titles in five years, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can complete a treble of cup trophies this season should the Reds see off Real Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League final.

Guardiola and Klopp — the managers of United’s two biggest rivals — have consistently battled it out for the major trophies, leaving the Red Devils, without silverware since 2017, as bystanders.

However, the Dutchman challenged the suggestion it would take the departure of one or both of Guardiola and Klopp for United to be able to compete again.

“In this moment I admire them both,” Ten Hag said as he was unveiled at Old Trafford on Monday. “They play at this moment really fantastic football, both Liverpool and Manchester City.

“But you always see that an era can come to an end. I am looking forward to battle with them.”

The former Ajax boss, 52, is United’s fifth permanent manager since the club last won a league title in Alex Ferguson’s farewell season in 2013.

Ten Hag also had a spell as Bayern Munich’s reserve team manager earlier in his career and said he was used to the demands of working at a big club.

“This is a project, it takes time,” he said. “I know in this club — I have the experience of Ajax and Bayern — in the top (clubs) there is never time.

“We want to win every game so we go from game to game and then we will see. This club has a great history, now let’s make the future. It’s really exciting to do that with the people around in the club.”

Ten Hag refused to be drawn on how many new signings he is targeting in the transfer window but said there would be a role for top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who turns 38 next season.

Ralf Rangnick’s interim time in charge since November failed to summon any sort of response from an expensively assembled squad as United finished 13 points outside the top four.

Rangnick is set to take over as Austria manager but is still contracted to the club in a consultancy role for the next two years.

Ten Hag, though, was non-committal on how many contacts he will have with Rangnick.

“That is on the club,” he said of Rangnick’s role. “I analyse by myself, I observe and I speak with a lot of people, but finally I draw my own line.”

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AGAIN, OKOYE WITHDRAWS FROM SUPER EAGLES’ TEAM FOR MEXICO, ECUADOR FRIENDLIES

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Super Eagles Goal Keeper, Maduka Okoye

Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, has once again, withdrawn from the Super Eagles upcoming matches slated for end of May and early June, reports bestchoicesports.com.ng.

The Watford FC of England new goalkeeper has asked to be excluded from the 30-man Super Eagles list to face Mexico and Ecuador.

Okoye, who is set to link up with Watford, which have been demoted to the English Championship, last week guided his team, Sparta Rotterdam out of relegation in the Netherlands’ Eredivisie.

According to reports, Okoye has communicated to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) that he won’t be available for the two friendly matches.

No reason has been given for his absence per the time of filing in this report, thus, fueling talks of the goalkeeper potentially quitting the national team.

Okoye was largely targeted by a section of Nigerian fans and media after the team’s round of 16 exit at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun, with many blaming him for the decisive goal scored by Tunisia.

Since after the tournament, he hasn’t represented Nigeria as he made a last minute decision to shun the World Cup playoffs against Ghana, which ended Nigeria’s hope of qualifying for the showpiece in Qatar.

His absence has opened the door for the duo of Akwa United’s Adewale Adeyinka and Ojo Olorunleke to stake a claim for the number one spot of the team

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old goalkeeper is set to be named Watford FC number one following Ben Foster’s decision that he would not drop to the Championship with the club. Foster confirmed he would leave Watford at the end of the season.

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