World Football: 50 Most Marketable Stars in 2011 (Part One)
Forbes magazine recently released its latest table of the highest-paid soccer stars in the world.
English star David Beckham, currently at MLS club LA Galaxy, topped the list with 2010-11 earnings of $40 million and a total worth of $219 million.
This income came from numerous sources, including his big-bucks contract with Adidas, his range of perfumes and his endorsement deal with EA Sports. He was England's ambassador for their failed 2018 World Cup bid and will soon take on a more active role as the global brand ambassador for Samsung for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
But which other current players, former stars and managers join him in my list of the 50 most marketable stars in world football today?
50) Christian Eriksen: The New Michael Laudrup?
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Athletic, tall and blond, 19-year-old Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen has been dubbed the ''new Michael Laudrup'' by football magazine Tipsbladet, having made an appearance six years earlier in one of the publication's skills DVD.
His performances for Ajax, still an iconic club, and the prospect of a big-money move to England, Italy or Spain could make him a target for many companies looking for a fresh, young face to promote their products.
49) Shinji Kagawa: The New Star in the East
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Twenty-two-year old Japanese player Shinji Kagawa's star performances to help Borussia Dortmund win the Bundesliga last year have created hype.
With Japan's recent win in the Women's World Cup and rumoured interest in Kagawa from Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, someone could be rolling in some serious money before too long.
48) Jamie Redknapp: M&Sr. Nice Guy
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With a wife who went from being a pop star to a TV presenter and a dad who is manager of Tottenham Hotspur and may go on to coach England, Jamie Redknapp is well connected.
That is without his work for charity Burned Children's Club, television punditry and commercial appearances as the face of M&S men's clothing and a recent showing on a Wii advertisement.
47) Asamoah Gyan: A ''Black Star'' of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
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Voted the Most Popular Entertainer in Ghana and the Ghanaian Sports Personality of the Year in 2011, Sunderland forward Asamoah Gyan has risen to prominence recently.
With three goals in his national team's astonishing run to the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, his extra-time penalty miss to advance his team one stage further perversely seems to have enhanced his stance with his fans.
A goal in a recently Wembley friendly against England, stage appearances as rapper ''Baby Jet'' and a sponsorship deal with telecom company Globacom are signs of his growing popularity and influence.
46) Landon Donovan: Helping Raise the Profile of Soccer in US
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The Late Show with David Letterman to Regis & Kelly, chatting on the CBS Early Show and ringing the bell at the Stock Exchange.
After helping his national team reach the last-16 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Donovan returned to the States to a series of public appearances which catapulted him into the spotlight of the adoring US public.
He has endorsements with Gatorade, AT&T, Nike and the Mexican Lottery.
45) Michael Ballack: Der Meister of German Football
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Once worth £6 million-a-year just in wages, three-time German Footballer of the Year is back playing domestic football in Germany after a five-year spell at Chelsea which saw him win seven team trophies and numerous individual awards.
He has also starred in numerous television adverts for companies such as Adidas, L'Oreal and Samsung and is the most iconic German player of the last decade.
44) Gary Lineker: Barca Legend Turned Crisp Star
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Another footballer whose fame has increased since his retirement, Lineker is the former Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and England forward who has become the face of British football broadcasting.
The Golden Boot winner of the 1986 FIFA World Cup is the presenter of Premier League highlight program Match of the Day and the face of Walker's Crisps.
He is also a freeman of Leicester, takes part in numerous philanthropic activities and is married to beautiful Welsh lingerie model and TV presenter Danielle Lineker (nee Bux).
43) Rafael Van Der Vaart: Tottenham's Dutch Star with a Famous Missus
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Pictured last month enjoying a holiday break with supermodel wife Sylvie in St. Tropez, Rafael Van der Vaart took the Premier League by storm last year with new club Tottenham Hotspur.
And having impressed in Eredivisie, Die Bundesliga, La Liga and on the international stage with 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists Holland, Van der Vaart's cheeky grin is becoming increasingly familiar.
With a big-money Nike sponsorship and a glamorous relationship which has led to some social commentators comparing his relationship with Sylvie to that of David and Victoria Beckham, Van der Vaart will be in vogue for some time.
42) Michael Owen: English Boy Wonder of the New Millennium
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At various stages of his topsy-turvy career, Manchester United's former England star Michael Owen has been the face of Nestle cereals, Persil and Pro Evolution Soccer.
Now 31, he still has lucrative contracts with Swiss watch makers Tissot and car manufacturer Jaguar and represents the world's richest club Manchester United, having previously starred for Liverpool and Real Madrid.
41) Vinnie Jones: Cinema's Bad Boy
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Never more than a run-of-the-mill top-flight midfielder, 46-year-old former Chelsea, Wimbledon and Wales midfielder Vinnie Jones has done rather well for himself since his ''retirement''.
He has appeared in numerous television shows and films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and X-Men: the Last Stand. He has also been a singer, participant in Celebrity Big Brother and the face of betting firm Ladbrokes, and is soon to be the protagonist in a new comic book.
40) Jack Wilshere: England's New Hope
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Fresh-faced and fleet-footed, 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is considered one of the hottest talents in world football by many experts.
If Wilshere stays on the straight and narrow and follows the example of Gary Lineker rather than Paul Gascoigne, he could not only earn numerous domestic and international honours but also a shed load of cash from commercial endorsements.
39) Mia Hamm: The Leading Goalscorer in International Footballing History!
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Mia Hamm could be a world-famous celebrity...had she born with two balls rather than learning to play with one.
Hamm, now 39, is the standout player and icon of women's football across the globe in the modern era, with an incredible 158 goals in 275 international appearances during a 15-year career.
Pictured with Hilary Clinton, Hamm is now a global ambassador for FC Barcelona and helps run the Team First Soccer Academy throughout the US with two former international teammates.
38) Andre Villas-Boas: The Special One...but Younger!
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London club Chelsea paid Potuguese champions more than £13 million to release 33-year-old coach Villas-Boas from his role at FC Porto.
Having managed the British Virgin Islands at the age of 21 and worked under respected managers Sir Bobby Robson and Jose Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea, he has taken on a challenging and exciting role in the biggest domestic competition in the world.
If he proves his worth and lands some silverware in his first season, companies will be desperate for Villas-Boas to endorse their products and services.
37) Luis Figo: Just for Men
Appearing here in a Just for Men shampoo commercial, Luis Figo had a dazzling career playing for some of the best club teams in the world.
Famous for a world record transfer fee, a flying pig's head and European and World Footballer of the Year awards at the turn of the millennium, Figo was an icon, part of the ''Golden Generation'' of Portuguese football, which has surely inspired the likes of world superstars Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo to achieve success in the game.
Married to a Swedish model, Figo is now an ambassador for former club Inter Milan and has worked on behalf of Unicredit and Stop TB.
36) Thierry Henry: What Is the French for ''Va Va Voom?''
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Former Arsenal, Barcelona and France star Thierry Henry is considered by most as the greatest ever Premier League footballer.
He won many plaudits for his dazzling skill, elegant movement, sportsmanship and charisma and appeared in a series of catchy Renault adverts in the UK which ran the catchphrase ''What is the French for Va Va Voom?''
Although his move to the MLS was not greeted with the same razzmatazz as that of David Beckham, Henry's good looks, French accent and swagger and cabinet full of trophies has still meant he earned $20 million last year and was the sixth-best paid footballer, according to Forbes magazine.