(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.
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 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 ($261.6 million) move from Barcelona to Paris St Germain last August, took the fourth spot.
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)