Lionel Messi: Latin America's most marketable athlete


Lionel Messi during a match between Barcelona and Chelsea on April 28, 2009.


Alex Livesey

He's spectacularly elusive, his ball skills are second to none and he's still just a kid

Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi is Latin America's most marketable athlete — and the fourth most marketable athlete in the world.

At least according to a list of the world's 50 most marketable atheletes published by SportsPro magazine.

Coming in ahead of Messi are Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Miami Heat basketball star Lebron James and Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Born in Rosario, Messi moved to Spain with his family when he was 13 to get treatment for a growth-hormone deficiency. His contract with FC Barcelona was written on a paper napkin.

At 23, he's already won the FIFA World Player of the Year award multiple times. But to be considered the greatest ever, many believe he needs to claim a World Cup victory.

His income is reported to exceed $43 million this year. Last year he picked up deals with Audemars Piguet and Chinese car manufacturer Chery.

Says SportsPro: "A year ago there was some debate as to who the best soccer player in the world was – Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? There can be none now. Lionel Messi is simply a phenomenon."

Three other Latin America athletes made the list in addition to Messi: Brazilian soccer player Neymar; Dominican baseball player Albert Pujols; and Brazilian wrestler Anderson Silva.

Watch some of Messi's best goals: