The quest to become the highest-paid player in the world game is not a goal that most stars begin their career aiming for.
Team success is the driving force behind the motivations of most players, with individual glory coming second. Even then, it is prizes such as the Ballon d’Or that young footballers dream of.
Nevertheless, becoming the best renumerated star on the planet holds its own kudos, particularly when the game’s leading exponents have been trading blow for blow over the course of almost their entire careers.
It is Messi who comes out on top, posting total earning of $126 million, with a salary of $92m and endorsements worth $34m.
His ability to remain in top spot, however, hangs in the balance. His deal with Barcelona is up at the end of June and the Catalans are under pressure to cut their wage bill. Either he will have to take a dramatic cut to his earnings or move elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo is further back on $117m. His wages of $70m are dramatically eclipsed by Messi, but he almost makes up the shortfall with endorsements of $47m. Sponsored by the likes of Herbalife and Nike, Ronaldo’s sponsorship money is greater than anyone else in the game by $13m.
Coming in third is Neymar. The Brazil international star earns $96m per year, the majority of which arrives from his bumper deal with Paris Saint-Germain, which gives him a salary of $78m. Only Messi earns more. Meanwhile, his sponsorship value is worth a hefty $18m.
The top three are in a league of their own, with even Neymar’s earnings twice that of team-mate Kylian Mbappe, who comes in fourth. The PSG striker reportedly earns $42m per year. His salary at PSG is currently $28m – although that is likely to head upwards as he negotiates a new deal – while his endorsements are worth exactly half of that.
Manchester United’s David De Gea rounds of the top 10 as the game’s best-pad goalkeeper.
Who are the best paid footballers?
Football's top earners
|Paul Pogba||Man Utd||34|
|Gareth Bale||Tottenham (on loan from Madrid||29|
|Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||28|
|David De Gea||Man Utd||27|