May 22, 2018 / 4:12 PM / in 5 months

Ronaldo retains top spot as world's most popular athlete - ESPN

(Reuters) - 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.

FILE PHOTO: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Atletifco Madrid in La Liga REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

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.

FILE PHOTO: Paris St Germain forward Neymar of Brazil, Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal pictured at the Ballon d'Or 2015 awards in Zurich, Switzerland, January 11, 2016 REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Three-time NBA champion Lebron 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 euros (195 million pounds) 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 twelve women making the 2018 list compared to eight last year.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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