It is no secret that Formula One ace Michael Schumacher has been number one on the track, but at least as important for sponsors and those who run the sport, he has also become number one off the track. Many will be surprised that he outranked golfer Tiger Woods on the list, but there are other surprises, too. The reality of professional sports in today’s highly commercial environment is that, in addition to scoring points, today’s superstar athlete must be equally dazzling at endorsing products and speaking in sound bytes, and in some cases, good looks are definitely an asset. Published today in the Report on Business’ annual Sports Issue, a list of the world’s 50 Most Valuable Athletes is revealed. The magazine’s definitive list of who’s worth what in professional sports is based on money (salaries, winnings and endorsements), performance (wins and achievements), media coverage (overall mentions, plus cover stories) and the views of a panel of Canadian sports experts. The top five: 1. Michael Schumacher (race car driver) – Up from second place last year. Made $US 80 million last year; A+ for performance; appeared in 409 media stories. 2. Tiger Woods (golfer) – Down from first place last year. Made $US 69 million last year; C+ performance; 1,007 newspaper stories and on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice. 3. Shaquille O’Neal (basketball player) – Unchanged from last year. Made $US 29 million last year; A performance; on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times. 4. Lennox Lewis (boxer) – Up from 22nd place last year. Made $36 million last year; A+ performance; appeared in 425 newspaper stories. 5. Venus Williams (tennis player) – Up from 21st place last year. Made $US 20 million; A- performance; appeared in 343 newspaper stories and on the cover of Time Magazine. The Panel Picks: R.O.B. Magazine recruited a panel of sports experts to help with the judging. Here are some of their selections and comments: Most overpaid athletes: – Alex Rodriguez (baseball player): “The $252-million contract shows that Major League Baseball is anything but losing money,” said Jody Vance, host of Rogers Sportsnet. – Anna Kournikova (tennis player): “Making megamillions because she’s beautiful, not because of her tennis,” said Colleen Jones, curling champion and CBC commentator. – Michael Jordan (basketball player and owner): “Still the best athlete of the 20th century, but his era is over,” said Paul Godfrey, president and CEO, Toronto Blue Jays. – Mike Tyson (boxer): “Paid to be a freak,” said Jones. Most underpaid athletes: – Annika Sorenstam (golfer): “The Tiger Woods of women’s golf, but makes 4% of what Tiger makes,” said Jim Nantz, sportcaster, CBS Sports. – Ichiro Suzuki (baseball player): “The best in the game, but vastly underpaid compared to peers,” said Godfrey. – Canadian amateur athletes: “They have no collective bargaining agreement,” said Nathalie Cook, director of corporate consulting, IMG. – Ronaldo (soccer player): “A bargain compared to others on the list,” said Brian Williams, anchor, CBC Sports. – The Canadian Women’s hockey team: “Their salaries add up to less than one player on the men’s team, if that,” said Vance. The Sports Issue of Report on Business Magazine is available in today’s Globe and Mail newspaper.