The Portuguese footballer is on top of the standings in the list for 2018, while the Argentinian magician is third, separated by Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. Neymar, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Kevin Durant, Rafael Nadal, Stephen Curry and Phil Mickelson are also among the top 10 most famous athletes.
The list also features 11 Indians with Virat Kohli in 11th position followed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 20th place. Rohit Sharma (30th), Suresh Raina (41st), Saina Nehwal (50th), Yuvraj Singh (57th), Ravichandran Ashwin (71st), Harbhajan Singh (80th), Gautam Gambhir (83rd), Shikhar Dhawan (94th) and Sania Mirza (100th) are the others in the list.
Serena Williams is the highest ranked female athlete on the list which comprises of only 12 women. The 23-time Grand Slam champion is 12th on the list ahead of rival Maria Sharapova who is ranked 21st.
Interestingly, there are 10 cricketers on the list — nine from India apart from AB de Villiers — while no baseball or ice hockey players made the cut.
India skipper Kohli, who was also named in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world earlier, finds himself ahead of tennis aces Serena Williams (12) and Novak Djokovic (13), while Dhoni has pipped the likes of before Maria Sharapova (21) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (25). Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Kohli had a search score of 88, endorsements worth $17.4 million and social following of 36.9 million.
ESPN said they began by considering 600 of the biggest athletes in the world, drawn from 68 countries before their Sports Analytics Group ranked them based on a “proprietary formula” which used three factors: how often the athlete’s name is searched, endorsement money and followers on social media.