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You guessed right – the highest-paid athlete is a football player

Soccer, more commonly referred to as football, is by far the most popular sport on the planet, and so goes for football players. Being watched and played by billions of people all across the world, football has a 43% share of the global financial sports market, with global revenues of around $28 billion yearly. In Europe alone it is a $22 billion business and is, in terms of revenue and overall level of competition, the most prominent soccer market in the world. The »Big Five«, meaning the world’s most prestigious national football leagues– Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 – are all located in Europe and their combined revenue in the 2017/2018 season amounted to around 18 billion U.S. dollars.


In this status football player’s fees and salaries are equally awe-inspiring. Gathering some data we listed three highest-paid football players in 2016/2017. The listing positions will probably not surprise you, but maybe the numbers will.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Leading the list for the fourth straight years is, by no surprise, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, with overall earnings of 93 million U.S. dollars. The number of courses varies in different sources, but according to Forbes he pockets $58 million from salary and bonuses, and $35 million from sponsors and licensing. With that, he is also the highest-paid athlete overall.

Real Madrid is one of the most valuable sports team brands in the world. Their net worth, however, declined 2% from 2016, and with that, they fall from the most valuable European soccer team to being third (after Manchester United and FC Barcelona), with a market value of 3.58 billion dollars. Despite that, they have the most titles in the UEFA Champions League (12), with Ronaldo being the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Champions League since 1955.

The Portuguese star secured a contract extension with Real Madrid that will pay him more than $50 million for each of the next four years after he was named FIFA’s best player in the world for the fourth time. He signed many sponsorship deals for consumer products, including sportswear, soft drinks, clothing, financial services, electronics, and much more. Some of his major sponsors are Herbalife, Tag Heuer, Clear, XTrade, Pestana Hotel Group, Abbott, Nubia and Nike, with whom he signed a lifetime deal worth upward of $1 billion. He remains the most popular athlete in the world with 277 million social media followers by June 2017 and is said that sponsors earned $936 million in media value across his social media accounts in that period of one year.

Lionel Messi

The second highest-paid soccer player and third higher-paid athlete in the world is FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, with total earnings of 80 million dollars. In 2016/2017 he banked $53 million from salary and bonuses, and $27 million from endorsement deals.

Messi is the FC Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer with 523 goals in 602 matches. He inked a new contract with the club last year, and his new buyout clause is set at $835 million, which is more than double his previous clause. Is said that Argentinian will receive $59.6 million signing bonus. Forbes stated, that he will earn $667,000 a week.

Some of his major sponsors are Gatorade, Tata Motors, Air Europa and Dolce & Gabbana that are worth $8 million a year to him. One of the most lucrative bankers, responsible for half of Messi’s endorsement income, is, however, German sportswear giant Adidas, with whom he renewed a lifelong deal in December. As stated in The Sun, this contract is worth $140 million which breaks down to $20 million annually. He also included a new deal with Spanish sunglass maker Hawkers for a signature line, with whom he could earn over $130 million by this current campaign’s end.

Neymar Jr.

Not even touching the halfway point in his footballing career, Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. is already among the best-paid athletes on Earth. Former FC Barcelona player is following third with a total of $37 million of income in 2016/2017. He earned $22 million from sponsorship deals and 12 million U.S. dollars from salary and bonus.

In the second half of 2017 Paris Saint-Germain has officially signed Neymar to a five-year playing contract, that is considered to be the best paying deal in the world until today. They estimated to pay Neymar $350 million in salary and bonus before-tax. FC Barcelona had released the Brazilian accepting a $263 million buy-out payment, which is also a new transfer record. According to this deal, Neymar is to become world’s highest-paid soccer player even ahead of Ronaldo and Messi in the following year.

The 26-year-old superstar has signed many sponsorship deals. In March 2011, he signed an 11-year contract with Nike and at the same time, Panasonic paid $2.4 million to secure his services for two years. Some of the other major endorsers are Gillette, Red Bull, Oreo, Police and Beats by Dre. According to Forbes his social media posts with sponsor images produced $125 million in media value. Recently he has been unveiled as a global brand ambassador for Chinese electronics brand TCL for two years.

You can see the income of top 20 highest-paid soccer players in the world in 2016/2017 down below. Note that different sources may dispose of different data since is hard to track all contracts and deals that athletes signed, but we feel this rank gives generally best overview. Quite impressive, right?

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Source: Statista

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