It is a debate even the World Cup is unlikely to settle: who is the greater player – Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? No matter how they perform in Brazil, football will remain split down the middle as to which is the greatest footballer of his generation.

However, there is one area where there is no comparison, a domain in which one of them is now threatening to conquer not just the football universe but sport itself. When it comes to sheer marketability, there is not a footballer on the planet that comes close to matching CR7.

With more Facebook likes than Coca-Cola, 38 times more Twitter followers than David Cameron and recognised, according to a recent marketing survey, by almost 84 per cent of the world’s population – Messi clocks in with 76 per cent, and Wayne Rooney a comparatively paltry 56 per cent – the Portuguese’s commercial influence is only rivalled by David Beckham. And even Leytonstone’s finest will be left in the shade if Ronaldo makes a World Cup his own in the coming weeks.

Forbes’s annual list of the world’s highest paid athletes, due to be published on Wednesday, should see Ronaldo confirmed as the Beckham’s successor as football’s highest-grossing star.

The 29-year-old earned $44 million (£26 million) in 2013, almost half of that in endorsements from his stable of sponsors.