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The battle for the highest paid athlete in the world is such an interesting one, as it cuts across all sporting activities including football, basketball, golf, rugby, tennis and so on.

Over the years, major sports contracts have continued to become more lucrative, thanks to big-money broadcasting deals. As a result, many talented superstars have continued to break the bank.

Lionel Messi 

Nairametrics tracks the ranking of the top ten sporting earners in the world which sums up their salary earnings and their endorsement deals. The latest report released by Forbes shows that Lionel Messi of Barcelona claims the top spot with a significant yearly pay of $127 million which covers $92 million salaries and $35 million endorsements.

Lionel Messi, Highest Paid Athlete in the world

The Argentine and Barcelona forward (31 years) has played 687 matches for his club side since he debuted in 2003, scored 603 goals and won 33 club titles, including 10 La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League trophy. Lionel Messi has been awarded FIFA’s Player of the year five times, among many other awards, which proves undoubtedly that he is one of the best sportsmen to walk the surface of the earth.

Christiano Ronaldo

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with the cup (Supercoppa) after the Italian Super Cup soccer match between Juventus FC and Milan

The second athlete on the list is Christiano Ronaldo of Juventus with a yearly salary of $65 million and $44 million worth of endorsement, summing up to a yearly earning of $109 million. The Portuguese captain was the top-earning athlete in 2017 as reported by Forbes, but took a wage cut after leaving Real Madrid for Juventus last summer.

Ronaldo has won FIFA’s Player of the year five times equaling Lionel Messi’s record. He is the all-time leading goal scorer in the UEFA Champions League and is the most followed athlete on social media with nearly 400 million followers.

Ronaldo signed a four years deal with Juventus from Real Madrid, which necessitated a wage cut to a yearly salary of $63 million, this apparently costs Ronaldo the number 1 highest-earning athlete in the world.


PSG Forward, Neymar Jr.

Neymar Jr. came third on the list. According to the Forbes ranking, Neymar receives a yearly salary/winnings of $75 million and $30 million worth of endorsement, summing up to $105 million. Neymar Jr, popularly known by his nickname ‘Juninho’ is a Brazilian professional football player.

He plays forward for Paris Saint-Germain (French Club) and the Brazilian National team. his transfer from Barcelona to PSG stands as the most expensive in the world at $263 million, which was paid in full by the club ahead of signing. The Skipper is the second most popular athlete behind Christiano Ronaldo, on social media with more than 200 million followers of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Other athletes who made the list in a specific order are:

  • Canelo Alvarez (#4; $94 million, Boxing)
  • Roger Federer (#5; $93.4 million, Tennis)
  • Russell Wilson (#6; 89.5 million, American football)
  • Aaron Rodgers (#7; $89.3 million, American football)
  • LeBron James (#8; $89 million, Basketball)
  • Stephen Curry (#9; $79.8 million, Basketball)
  • Kevin Durant (#10; $65.4 million, Basketball)

Mayweather and Tiger woods missed out of the top 10: Tiger Woods, the Golfer is believed to be one of the greatest athletes in the world as he has enjoyed sporting fame, downtime, and success over and over again.


For so many years, Tiger topped the Forbes list of highest sports earners. However, his  net worth declined when his. Ex. wife Nordegren divorced him over a cheating scandal. The incident cost Wood a lot of money and endorsement deals. Fortunately, he was able to come back to win the 2019 Masters Golf tournament.

Woods had not won a major championship since the US Open in 2008 and has struggled for years, undergoing numerous back surgeries until his latest victory. Meanwhile, his last victory only saw him ranked 11th with a total yearly earning $63.9 million.

Flowd Mayweather: One night is all it took for Floyd Mayweather to exceed their combined total. Money Mayweather came out of retirement, seemingly willed a fight to happen with Conor McGregor via social media, and then produced the biggest single payday in the history of sports, with his cut of the fight worth $275 million.

Mayweather tops Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2018 for the fourth time in seven years at $285 million, including $10 million from endorsements, appearances and memorabilia. If he had fought this year, Lionel Messi may have missed out the spot as the highest paid athlete in the world.


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