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Lionel Messi: Latin America’s Most Marketable

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Lionel Messi, Alberto Pujols, Neymar and Anderson Silva among world's most marketable athletes.

BY LBC STAFF

Four Latin Americans made the list of the top 50 athletes that are most marketable. The list is published by SportPro magazine which looks at the athletes’ three-year track record and future potential for sponsors. The list is topped by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, followed by basketball star Lebron James of the Miami Heat and Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Argentine Lionel Messi, who many consider the greatest soccer player today, was ranked fourth.  “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,” SportsPro says. “Messi truly is a worthy successor to Diego Maradona.”

His annual endorsement income jumped to a reported $23.5 million last year after he last year alone picked up deals with both Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet and Chinese car manufacturer Chery, according to the magazine.

The SportsPro ranking was published days before the 23-year old Messi helped his team Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 to win the 2010-2011 UEFA Champions League final in London. A feat that will likely make him even more valuable for sponsors.

“Unpretentious and camera-shy away from the pitch – unlike global icons such as Ronaldo and David Beckham – Messi’s brand has been built exclusively on his footballing ability and achievements,” SportsPro says. (Soccer is known as football outside of the United States.) “That has made him hot property for the likes of Adidas, Pepsi and Konami, who have always concentrated much of their marketing around soccer.”

NEYMAR: EUROPE NEXT

Meanwhile, another Latin American soccer player also made the list: Brazil’s 19-year old Neymar, who came in 17th place. After a career as a striker at Brazilian club Santos he is set for the big leagues in Europe.

“The sponsors courting him are just as high profile, “ SportsPro says. Nike recently signed the striker to an 11-year deal, while Panasonic spent $2.4 million to secure his services for two years in March, it reports. Neymar has worked with agency Traffic Sports Management and as of April with 9ine.

PUJOLS: BASEBALL'S MOST MARKETABLE

Dominican baseball star Alberto Pujols came in 25th place on the list. The 31-year old Pujols, who is a slugger for the US baseball team the St Louis Cardinals, is ranked by SportsPro as baseball’s most marketable man, ahead of other baseball stars like New York Yankee’s Alex Rodrdiguez. His value is expected to increase further as he will likely lead his native Dominican Republic national team at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. “Should the nine-time All-Star remain injury free, he will be the face of a nation many perceive to be a strong contender to win baseball’s answer to soccer’s World Cup,” SportsPro says.

SILVA: WRESTLING SUPERSTAR

The last Latin American on the list is another Brazilian. However, he’s not tied to soccer, but wrestling. 35-year old Anderson Silva, also known as “The Spider”, comes in 40th place thanks to his prominence in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

“Now, with the UFC’s aggressive expansion plans focusing on a return to Rio de Janeiro in August, Silva breaks into the rankings as a value-for-money athlete with a golden opportunity to cement his position as a home-grown hero in an enormous market, and a global superstar in a sport that is rapidly becoming one of the industry’s hottest new properties with broadcasters and sponsors alike,” SportsPro says.

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