Ronaldo, 32, is reckoned to have earned $93 million (€82.5m, £71.7m) between his Real salary ($58m) and off-the-field endorsements ($35m) last year.
Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi, who was No. 2 last year, was third on the list, with calculated earnings of $80m ($53m in salary/winnings, $27m in endorsements).
The Portugal captain, who lifted his fourth Champions League title on Saturday, has a lifetime contract with Nike worth around $1 billion, and counts the likes of Tag Heuer, Herbalife, Abbott Labs as brands for whom he’s a pitchman.
Also, the former Manchester United man’s line of CR7-branded products, which includes shoes, underwear, fragrance as well as a line of hotels add additional income.
Brazil and Barcelona forward Neymar is the next footballer on the list at No. 18, earning $37m, which includes $22m in endorsements on top of his $15m salary.
In all, nine footballer’s made the list, which includes three Real Madrid players, three from Barcelona, two from Manchester United and one from Manchester City.
The other footballers on the list are Gareth Bale at No. 24 ($34m), Zlatan Ibrahimovic at No. 30 ($32m), Wayne Rooney at No. 70 ($23.6m), Luis Suarez at No. 71 ($23.3m), Sergio Aguero at No. 80 ($22.6m) and James Rodriguez at No. 91 ($21.9m).
Forbes named Manchester United the world’s most valuable football club on Tuesday.
Footballers on Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes:
1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid): $93m (€82.5m, £71.7m)
2 Lionel Messi (Barcelona): $80m (€71m, £61.7m)
3 Neymar (Barcelona): $37m (€xm, £28.5m)
4 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid): $34m (€32.8m, £26.2m)
5 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United): $32m (€28.4m, £24.6m)
6 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): $23.6m (€20.9m, £18.2m)
7 Luis Suarez (Barcelona): $23.3m (€20.6m, £17.9m)
8 Sergio Aguero (Manchester City): $22.6m (€20m, £17.4m)
9 James Rodriguez (Real Madrid): $21.9m (€19.4m, £16.8m)