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Beckham heads list of top earners

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Forbes magazine has released its list of the top 20 football earners on the planet for the year 2008.

Predictably, David Beckham leads the pack, while Ronaldo's time at AC Milan sees him join Becks, Ronaldinho and Kaka in the top 20, along with on-loan striker Andriy Shevchenko.

With parent clubs and leagues (as opposed to on-loan clubs) being measured, the most populous league in this top 20 is the English Premier League, with fully nine of the 20 players. Serie A comes next with five (six if Beckham is included), La Liga of Spain is next with four, and the Brasileiro, Serie A and MLS have one apiece.

These figures, while open to debate, were gathered by Forbes from numerous sources. In their words, "We looked through team filings and spoke with talent agencies and soccer experts in the U.S. and Europe. All earnings are for 2008 and are in U.S. dollars. We include soccer salaries and incentives but exclude transfer fees."

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The figures, then, are as much a measure of a player's marketability as they are their talent. Over two thirds - $66 million from $95 million - of David Beckham's income over the past two years has been from endorsements such as Motorola and Adidas, while on the other hand, Lionel Messi has made just $7 million per year from advertising and product deals.

The list, according to Forbes, is shown above. Current clubs are given, which may differ from 2008 teams. In the case of a player being on loan, the side for whom he currently is registered is given first. --