London: Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo topped the ESPN World Fame 100 list for a third straight year, pipping American basketball player LeBron James and long-term Argentine rival Lionel Messi. Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, was named the most popular athlete in the world on the basis of his social media following, endorsement deals and search score. Three-time NBA champion James retained his second spot on the list, while Messi came third on the back of his ninth league title with Barcelona.
Brazil’s Neymar, who became the world’s most expensive footballer after his ^222 million move from Barcelona to Paris St Germain last August, took the fourth spot. Swiss Roger Federer, one of the most decorated players in tennis history, came fifth ahead of NBA star Kevin Durant and Spanish rival Rafa Nadal. American tennis icon Serena Williams replaces former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey as the most famous female athlete, with 12 women making the 2018 list compared to eight last year.