American heavyweight in business and finance Forbes analyzed the numbers and produced a Top 10 of the highest paid professional footballers in the world.
The players in question are collectively expected to reap $585 million in pre-tax profits this season, up from $570 million a year ago.
There are no prizes for guessing the two highest-earning players on the list, with former rivals Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo once again topping the list.
However, the big news is that Ronaldo has rallied and reclaimed the No.1 spot from Messi, after the Argentine’s tumultuous summer transfer to Paris Saint-Germain brought an abrupt end to his 21-year association. with Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo scored his own box office stunt with an emotional return to Manchester United, with the venerable prodigal son returning to Old Trafford after around 12 years away.
When compiling its list, Forbes spoke with clubs, agents and brand sponsors to produce the data. Although transfer fees are not included, the revenue shown includes player salaries for the 2021-22 season as well as contract bonuses and revenue from trade endorsements.
The ten highest-paid footballers in the world are expected to collect $585 million in pre-tax profit this season, up from $570 million last year.
The top two entrants, however, won’t surprise you. https://t.co/mIjWVyzj0c
—Forbes (@Forbes) September 21, 2021
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Age: 36 years old
Total winnings: $125 million
Just like on the pitch, Ronaldo shows no signs of slowing down commercially either, having established himself as the most popular athlete in the world, at least in terms of followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Indeed, the superstar commands a massive social media battalion of over half a billion followers worldwide.
His big return to Man United saw Ronaldo pick up a salary of $70million, with the rest of his earnings supplemented by valuable commercial partnerships with the likes of Nike, Herbalife and Clear shampoo – as well as his comprehensive product portfolio of brand CR7. products, including everything from underwear to hotels.
Only three active athletes make more money commercially per year than Ronaldo: Roger Federer ($90 million), LeBron James ($65 million) and Tiger Woods ($60 million).
2. Lionel Messi (Paris Saint Germain)
Total winnings: $110 million
Top of the list last year, Messi moved under Ronaldo in second place to cap off a summer of dizzying upheaval.
With his gargantuan income at Barcelona said to have been the catalyst for his accelerated departure from his boyhood club, Messi took a major pay cut to join PSG in August.
Fear not though, as the Argentine is still set to hit $75m in wages, which will be further supplemented by around $35m in trade endorsements from Adidas and Pepsi, among other brand partners.
Incredible scenes as Messi is introduced to PSG supporters for the first time 🤯🙌
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 11, 2021
3. Neymar (Paris Saint Germain)
Total winnings: $95 million
Cementing third place for another year, Neymar signed a further four-year contract extension with PSG earlier this year which will see the Brazilian stay with the Ligue 1 giants until 2025.
Then, as if the Parisians didn’t already have one of the most stacked (and expensive) attacking lines in world football, they went and added Messi into the equation.
Neymar also happens to be the third most-followed athlete on social media with 284 million followers across his various channels and platforms, including video-sharing app Triller – with whom the striker signed an exclusive content contract in November last year.
Total winnings: $43 million
The third PSG megastar to make the top four, Mbappe is also the youngest to make the list by far.
The young French international is now in the final year of his contract with the Paris club and having snubbed an extension earlier this year, so it looks like he could be looking for a new challenge in 2022-23.
With Real Madrid extremely keen on securing his signature at the end of the current campaign, perhaps Mbappe will find himself moving up a rung or two on the Forbes list in due course.
Total winnings: $41 million
The only representative in the Premier League, Salah completes the top five in the same way as last year.
The prolific Egyptian striker has enjoyed a runaway success since joining Liverpool from AS Roma in 2017, topping the 20-goal mark in each campaign and playing a pivotal role in delivering the Champions League and a Premier League title. historical champ.
Salah also collaborated with longtime commercial sponsor Vodafone in February 2020 to become a United Nations ambassador for a program that provides digital learning support to refugees in his home country.
Total winnings: $35 million
The Bayern striker keeps getting better with age, having enjoyed several of the most prolific, goal-laden, record-breaking and successful seasons of his career since turning 30.
Among a series of team and individual accolades, Lewandowski was named Bayern’s Player of the Season in 2019-20 and was crowned German Footballer of the Year twice in a row in 2020 and 2021.
And the Poland international became the first Bundesliga player to find the net in 13 successive games, part of a longer 19-game streak that dates back to February – the last time he failed to score during an appearance for his club.
He also runs several business ventures, including his own clothing and coffee brands RL9.
Total winnings: $35 million
Defying his years of advancement, veteran midfielder Iniesta makes a surprise return to the roster after signing a lucrative two-year contract extension with Japanese club Vissel Kobe in May – a deal which was officially announced at the occasion of the Spaniard’s 37th birthday.
Having first joined the J-League in 2018, former Barcelona maestro Iniesta is now under contract with Vissel until 2023, when he will be just 40 years old.
🇪🇸 Spanish star and legend Andrés Iniesta has extended his contract with Vissel Kobe until 2023. ⚽️🎉
— J.LEAGUE Official EN (@J_League_En) May 11, 2021
8. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Total winnings: $34 million
Pogba may have dropped three spots on the Forbes list in the space of a year, but his earnings remain unchanged, stuck at $34m while others have passed him.
The flamboyant Frenchman’s future at United remains more uncertain than ever, although it is suggested that following a glut of high profile arrivals at Old Trafford (including Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane), Pogba is now considering a contract extension to stay long-haul.
Total winnings: $32 million
Previously in exile, Bale is now back in the Real Madrid fold after falling so far out of favor that he was forced to return to former club Tottenham on loan for the 2020-21 season.
Once (if only briefly) the most expensive footballer on the planet, the Welshman has made three La Liga appearances so far this season, even scoring his first goal for Los Blancos in almost two years when he found the net against Levante last month.
Total winnings: $29 million
It’s perhaps surprising to see Hazard crack into the top 10 given the unease that seems to have overwhelmed the Belgian over the past two seasons – two seasons in which he’s been out for 59 games combined.
Indeed, since joining Real Madrid from Chelsea for €100m in 2019, Hazard has been limited to just 48 appearances in all competitions, scoring just five goals, and all due to a mix of injuries and lack of form.
There are rumors that Real are looking to offload Hazard and his considerable wages at the earliest possible moment, which could well affect their position on this list in 2022-23.
Out of the top 10
Two players made the list last season but were overtaken by others. Antoine Griezmann – then from Barcelona and now back at Atletico Madrid was seventh, and Man United goalkeeper David de Gea was 10th.