While the top spot no longer belongs to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, the two legendary soccer stars are still expected to earn at least $100 million this season, contributing to a record $652 million haul for soccer’s ten top earners.
By Justin Birnbaum
When Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi each crossed $100 million in total annual earnings for the first time in 2018, both were in their 30s, at the respective heights of their careers. Kylian Mbappé didn’t wait nearly as long, achieving the feat at just 23 years old.
Forbes estimates the French superstar will earn $128 million for the 2022-23 season before taxes and agents’ fees, a record for our annual ranking of the world’s highest-paid soccer players that lands him the No. 1 spot. Despite rumors of a move to La Liga’s Real Madrid, which even spurred a plea from French President Emmanuel Macron to stay, Mbappé in May signed a three-year contract extension to remain in his homeland with Ligue 1 powerhouse Paris-Saint Germain.
Under the terms of his deal, which like most soccer contracts are not public, Mbappé will collect roughly $110 million between his salary and a share of his signing bonus for this season, according to industry experts. That is in addition to the estimated $18 million in annual endorsements Mbappé earns from a stable of partners that include Nike, Dior, Hublot, Oakley and Panini. His interests off the field don’t end there: Mbappé recently appeared on the cover of EA Sports’ FIFA video game for the third consecutive year; founded his own production company, Zebra Valley; and joined fantasy NFT platform Sorare as both an ambassador and an investor.
“He's a global icon already,” Sorare cofounder and CEO Nicolas Julia told Forbes in June. “He wants to aid the world and show, also, that huge things can be built out of France.”
Mbappé’s ascension places Messi and Ronaldo in unfamiliar territory. The pair had owned the top two spots on the earnings list each year since 2014, topping out at $127 million (Messi in 2019) and $125 million (Ronaldo in 2021). (Messi has gone even higher—$130 million in 2021 and 2022—on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, which uses a different tracking window that looks at the past 12 months ending in May.) The stars now slip to second and third, respectively.
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That’s not to say soccer’s two most decorated players have ceded any of their earning power, especially off the field, in the twilight of their careers. Messi, 35, is expected to rake in $110 million this season ($55 million off the field) while Ronaldo, 37, is slated to earn $100 million ($60 million off the field, more than any other player). Both signed lucrative deals with cryptocurrency companies over the past year, with Messi getting $20 million annually from Socios.com and Ronaldo partnering with Binance for an undisclosed sum.
In total, the ten highest-paid soccer players are expected to collect record pretax earnings of $652 million this season, up 11% from last year’s $585 million. The top three alone account for more than 50% of that figure. Salary and bonus still represent the bulk of the total, improving 7% to $444 million. While Covid-19 losses previously put a damper on player movement, a recovery seems to be in full effect. According to a report from Deloitte, Premier League clubs spent a record $2.2 billion on transfers this summer, 67% higher than a year ago.
“If you look at the spending in the summer transfer window in the Premier League, it just tells you a story that soccer, as the most popular sport in the world, will always be interesting for investors,” says Kenneth Cortsen, a sports economist at University College of Northern Denmark. “The attractiveness of sports products are dependent on investments in talent, and there is a scarcity when it comes to top talent that can play in top leagues, and especially play a positive and transformative role in lifting the performance of top teams.”
Roughly two months into the season, arguably no player has been as transformative as Erling Haaland. The 22-year-old has proved to be worth every penny of the $63 million transfer fee Manchester City paid, scoring 19 goals in just 11 Premier League and Champions League games. The Norwegian comes in at No. 6 on this year’s list and is expected to pull in $35 million in salary and bonus this season, plus $4 million in endorsements.
Haaland, who makes his first top appearance in the earnings top ten, joins Mbappé as the only players under age 30 to make this year’s list, ushering in a youth movement that is set to dominate global soccer for years to come.
“There’s always another sports star around the corner, and when some heroes fade, new heroes arise,” Cortsen says, adding, “There’s no doubt that the names Mbappé, especially now with Haaland will be on the minds of sports fans and consumers.”
#1. $128 mil
ON-FIELD: $110 mil • OFF-FIELD: $18 mil | AGE: 23
INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS: 72.7 mil | TEAM: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | NATIONALITY: FRANCE
After collecting three of the last four Ligue 1 Player of the Year Awards, Mbappé has cemented himself as the face of French soccer. He’s flexed that influence of late. Mbappé refused to participate in a photoshoot and other sponsor activities in protest of the French national team’s image rights agreement with its players; the French Football Federation has announced it will review the matter.
#2. $120 mil
ON-FIELD: $65 mil • OFF-FIELD: $55 mil | AGE: 35
IG FOLLOWERS: 364 mil | TEAM: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | NATIONALITY: ARGENTINA
Messi already earns a king’s ransom off the pitch, but industry experts suggest that figure could grow by as much as 20% if he leads Argentina to a World Cup victory in November. (The nation is tied for the third-best odds right now.) Either way, the 35-year-old star has publicly said Qatar 2022 will “surely” be his final World Cup. He’s also rumored to be considering a return to FC Barcelona, where he spent the first 17 years of his senior career, in 2023.
#3. $100 mil
ON-FIELD: $40 mil • OFF-FIELD: $60 mil | AGE: 37
IG FOLLOWERS: 486 mil | TEAM: MANCHESTER UNITED | NATIONALITY: PORTUGAL
Despite a sharp decrease in playing time, Ronaldo is the world’s highest-earning soccer player off the pitch thanks to partners like Nike, Herbalife and Livescore. Reports suggest Ronaldo could be hunting for a new home during the January transfer window, giving him a chance to return to Champions League play (Manchester United didn’t qualify for 2022-23). He also boasts an astonishing 486 million followers on Instagram.
#4. $87 mil
ON-FIELD: $55 mil • OFF-FIELD: $32 mil | AGE: 30
IG FOLLOWERS: 179 mil | TEAM: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | NATIONALITY: BRAZIL
Neymar made history in 2017 with a record $263 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. In May 2021, he re-upped through 2025, and he helped convince Messi to come aboard later that year. Neymar continues to excel as a pitchman, adding Ooredoo Group as a sponsor in advance of the World Cup.
#5. $53 mil
ON-FIELD: $35 mil • OFF-FIELD: $18 mil | AGE: 30
IG FOLLOWERS: 53 mil | TEAM: LIVERPOOL | NATIONALITY: EGYPT
After a stellar campaign that nearly delivered Liverpool the Premier League title on the last day of the season, Salah was named England’s Men’s Footballer of the Year and Playmaker of the Season, and also received the league’s Golden Boot Award. In July, he signed a three-year extension to stay with Liverpool through 2025, and he remains one of Adidas’ biggest global stars.
#6. $39 mil
ON-FIELD: $35 mil • OFF-FIELD: $4 mil | AGE: 22
IG FOLLOWERS: 19.3 mil | TEAM: MANCHESTER CITY | NATIONALITY: NORWAY
Forbes estimates Haaland earns $4 million in endorsements annually from sponsors like Hyperice, Samsung and Viaplay, but that number is poised to skyrocket. Reports suggest Haaland’s next shoe deal could be worth as much as $18 million annually. His previous agreement with Nike expired this year.
#7. $35 mil
ON-FIELD: $27 mil • OFF-FIELD: $8 mil | AGE: 34
IG FOLLOWERS: 30.2 mil | TEAM: BARCELONA | NATIONALITY: POLAND
Lewandowski has been quick to justify the roughly $45 million transfer fee FC Barcelona paid in 2022 to acquire him from Bayern Munich, with 12 goals in ten matches played. The Polish national is endorsed by Nike and has his own “RL9” clothing line. This year, he ended a long-term arrangement with Huawei based on reports that the company supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
#8. $31 mil
ON-FIELD: $27 mil • OFF-FIELD: $4 mil | AGE: 31
IG FOLLOWERS: 27.1 mil | TEAM: REAL MADRID | NATIONALITY: BELGIUM
Hazard’s disappointing tenure with Real Madrid—six goals in 72 La Liga and Champions League matches spread over four seasons—has fueled constant rumors of a return to Chelsea. The 31-year-old previously appeared on the cover of EA Sports’ FIFA 20 video game.
#9. 30 mil
ON-FIELD: $25 mil • OFF-FIELD: $5 mil | AGE: 38
IG FOLLOWERS: 40.3 mil | TEAM: VISSEL KOBE | NATIONALITY: SPAIN
The 38-year-old launched his own sportswear brand in September. Called Capitten, it debuted with a limited-edition launch of a signature cleat and is aimed toward the Japanese market. Iniesta will also appear in an upcoming documentary about the FIFA World Cup.
#10. $29 mil
Kevin De Bruyne
ON-FIELD: $25 mil • OFF-FIELD: $4 mil | AGE: 31
IG FOLLOWERS: 19.1 mil | TEAM: MANCHESTER CITY | NATIONALITY: BELGIUM
Despite signing with Roc Nation in 2019, De Bruyne and his father led negotiations that yielded his latest contract with Manchester City, employing the help of data firm Analytics FC with the process. He has 11 brand deals that include Nike, Wow Hydrate, Credit Karma and Therabody.
The Forbes ranking of the world’s highest-paid soccer players represents the combined total of on-field earnings for the 2022-23 season, including base salaries and bonuses, and off-field estimates that reflect annual cash from endorsements, licensing, appearances and memorabilia, as well as businesses operated by the players. The figures are derived through publicly available databases, like Capology.com, and conversations with industry insiders, including Tancredi Palmeri. All figures are converted to U.S. dollars using the current exchange rate. Forbes does not include investment income such as interest payments or dividends but does account for payouts from equity stakes athletes have sold. Forbes does not deduct taxes or agents’ fees. Transfer fees are excluded.
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The World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players 2022: Kylian Mbappé Claims No. 1 As Erling Haaland Debuts? ›
Highest earning soccer players worldwide 2022
As of December 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo had the highest salary out of any soccer player worldwide, earning an estimated 200 million U.S. dollars a year with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr.
Highest earning soccer players worldwide 2022
As of December 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo had the highest salary out of any soccer player worldwide, earning an estimated 200 million U.S. dollars a year with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr.
Haaland dethrones Mbappe in 2022: These were the most expensive players each year since 2007. It has been revealed that Erling Haaland's market value of 170m euros is the highest of all, meaning he takes the title of being the world's most expensive player from Kylian Mbappe.Is Mbappe the highest paid footballer 2022? ›
Kylian Mbappe became the highest-earning footballer of 2022 with total earnings of $128 million, $110 million of which was earned on-field. The Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) star attacker rose three spots in the list as he was placed fourth in 2021 with approximately $43 million.Who is better between Haaland and Mbappe? ›
"Mbappe is the better player. Haaland is going to score more goals, but Mbappe is the better player, the more beautiful player." The former defensive midfielder has a point.Who is No 1 football player in 2022? ›
Who is the best football player in the world? Leo Messi is arguably the best football player in the world. He won the 2022 Football World Cup and 2021 Copa America for Argentina. He has won the Ballon d'Or for a record seven times.Who is richest player in the world? ›
- Cristiano Ronaldo. $500 million.
- David Beckham. $450 million.
- Dave Whelan. $210 million.
- Neymar Jr. $200 million.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic. $190 million.
- Kylian Mbappe. $180 million.
- Wayne Rooney. $170 million.
- Ronaldo Luís Nazário. $160 million.
According to a report by Daily Mail in October last year, Haaland's weekly salary crosses the £850,000 mark comfortably when his straightforward bonuses and incentives are met. It essentially makes him the best-paid Premier League player in history.Who is faster than Mbappe? ›
According to data presented by Sports Lens, Sulemana ranked as the fastest player in the 2022 FIFA World Cup when playing for Ghana against Uruguay, with a speed of 35.7 kilometres per hour. This made him faster than France's Kylian Mbappe, who was actually ninth in the rankings on 35.3 kilometres per hour.Who is No 1 Messi or Ronaldo? ›
Who is better Messi Or Ronaldo? Ronaldo has scored a record number of international goals and appearances, but Messi has won more Ballon d'Or awards (7). Messi has spent most of his playing career in Spain and France, while Ronaldo has played in Portugal, England, Spain, and Italy.
Kylian Mbappe – 36.08 km/h.Is Mbappe the highest-paid player in the world? ›
Mbappe, 23, is estimated to earn $128 million for the 2022-23 season before agents' fees, a record for Forbes' annual rankings, with PSG teammate Messi second at $120m and Manchester United's Ronaldo ($100m) occupying the third spot.Which soccer player is making $100 million? ›
The 24-year-old French soccer sensation enjoyed arguably the most successful year of his career by raking in $100 million of his $120 million on the pitch.
In terms of age, Haaland is far ahead of the Argentinian and Portuguese when they were 23. For both club and country, at the senior level, Haaland has 201 goals in 244 games right now. Meanwhile, at a similar age, Messi had 140 goals in 262 games, while Ronaldo's stats stood at 102 goals in 303 appearances.Who is faster than Haaland? ›
Mbappé also has the edge in the Champions League this season, reaching a top speed of 35.6km/h compared to Haaland's 34.9km/h.Is Mbappe faster than Ronaldo? ›
If we consider the fastest speed they have ever recorded in their respective careers, Kylian Mbappé is the winner. He recorded 38km/h against AS Monaco in Ligue-1. On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo known for his extra-ordinary agility has recorded ~34km/h against Spain in the World Cup 2018.Who is the fastest football player? ›
What we do know is that the fastest official speed ever recorded belongs to Tyreek Hill. "Cheetah" reached 23.24 mph on a kickoff return against the Texans during his rookie season.Which player is the king of football? ›
PELE IN FOOTBALL WORLD CUP
Pele has remained the only player to win the world cup thrice. He won the coveted trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and scored 12 world cup goals.
Messi is the most popular candidate thanks to his performances at the FIFA World Cup 2022. The Argentine attacker is frequently recognised as the best player in football history. Like his rival Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is regarded by many as the best football player to ever play the game.Who is the richest athlete? ›
World's highest-paid athletes
Christiano Ronaldo is the highest-paid athlete at $136 million in that time period, followed by Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé. Out of the top 10 highest-paid athletes, three are soccer players, three are basketball players, two are golfers, one is a tennis player and one is a boxer.
Who is the richest football player in the world right now? Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo is the richest footballer player in the world right now after signing a contract with Saudi Arabia-based club Al Nassr which will see him pocket €200 million a year from his club alone.Who is the wealthiest soccer player? ›
Messi first became the world's highest-paid athlete on Forbes' list in 2019. He topped the list again in 2022 with total earnings of USD 130 million.Can Haaland break Premier League record? ›
Erling Haaland broke the Premier League's single-season scoring record after the Manchester City striker netted his 35th goal of an incredible campaign in a 3-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday.Who are the 7 players better than Haaland? ›
Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Kun Agüero, Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Roberto Firmino and Timo Werner are, in Erling Haaland's opinion, the seven forwards who clearly outperform him at present.Is Erling Haaland the best football player in the world? ›
MANCHESTER, England -- Erling Haaland is the best player in the world right now, and he has transformed Manchester City from a great team into one that is capable of blowing everyone else away this season. Just ask Manchester United, beaten 6-3 at the Etihad on Sunday, following another Haaland hat trick.What is Haaland's top speed? ›
Mudryk's figures are just above Anthony Gordon who recorded 36.61 km/h, with Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez and Manchester City star Erling Haaland following with top speeds of 36.53 km/h and 36.22 km/h respectively.Why is Kylian Mbappe so fast? ›
He runs on the ball of his foot and his heel springs up, making him one of the fastest players in the world. This is due to his elite tendon stiffness, which refers to the ability of the Achilles tendon. to recoil and generate maximum power. If you want to improve your speed, consider training your tendon stiffness.Is Mbappe faster than Messi? ›
But in terms of pure leg-blurring pace, Mbappe is the speedier of the two. Though Mbappe would win that 100m race, if the track was littered with obstacles and they had to dribble their way to the finish line, I would back Messi.Who is the real goat in football history? ›
An analysis of the players' statistics reveals that Ronaldo was labelled the undisputed GOAT of soccer with the most overall goals, Champions League goals, club goals and assists, and international caps and goals.Who is penalty missed king in football? ›
Roberto Baggio, Italy vs. Possibly the most costly penalty miss in world football history. Roberto Baggio needed to convert this penalty to keep Italy alive against Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final shootout. He missed.
Lionel Messi beats Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema to Best FIFA Men's Player award. Lionel Messi was named Best FIFA Men's Player at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema.What is the fastest Messi? ›
Messi curled home an exquisite left-footed strike from the edge of the box just 79 seconds into Argentina's friendly against Australia in Beijing – the quickest of his professional career, per South American football's governing body, CONMEBOL.Who is faster Kylian Mbappe or Usain Bolt? ›
Is Usain Bolt faster than Mbappe? Usain Bolt has been clocked at speeds of up to 29.6 MPH—6 MPH (25%.) faster than Kylian Mbappe. The two athletes are considered the best runners in their respective sports, and comparisons between them have been endless ever since they first came onto the scene.Who is the 500k a week footballer? ›
Erling Haaland 'is in line to become the first Premier League player on a £500,000-A-WEEK basic salary' - taking his overall weekly wage to £1MILLION - as Man City 'draw up a new deal to end interest from Real Madrid' amid sensational debut season.What is Haaland's salary? ›
Erling Haaland signed a 5 year / £97,500,000 contract with the Manchester City F.C., including an annual average salary of £19,500,000. In 2023, Haaland will earn a base salary of £19,500,000, while carrying a cap hit of £19,500,000.What is Mbappe ranked in the world? ›
4. Kylian Mbappé, France. The Golden Boot winner comes in at No. 4 after scoring eight goals and accumulating two assists.Who is the richest soccer player $20 billion? ›
In December 2021, Bolkiah joined the Thai football team, Chonburi where he still plays. Coming from the royal family, Bolkiah's wealth is estimated to be $20 billion. With such massive wealth, he lives in absolute luxury. Going through his Instagram account, he doesn't show off much of his wealth.Who is the highest-paid NFL player? ›
Lamar Jackson finally has his deal with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens and Jackson have agreed to terms on a five-year $260 million contract making him the highest-paid player in the NFL averaging $52 million-per-year.Who is the first footballer to surpass $1 billion in career earnings? ›
Cristiano Ronaldo has a new record to add to his ever-growing list of accolades. The Portuguese star is now the first soccer player in history to crack $1 billion in career earnings.Who is the highest paid player per week 2022? ›
|1. Kevin De Bruyne||Man City||£425,000|
|=2. Erling Haaland||Man City||£402,250|
|=2. David de Gea||Man Utd||£402,250|
|=4. Mo Salah||Liverpool||£373,750|
Lamar Jackson finally has his deal with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens and Jackson have agreed to terms on a five-year $260 million contract making him the highest-paid player in the NFL averaging $52 million-per-year.Who is the richest paid player in the world 2023? ›
Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo tops Forbes' highest-paid athlete list for 2023 after Saudi Arabia move. Cristiano Ronaldo, playing here for the Riyadh All-Star XI, has seen his income boosted since moving to Saudi Arabia.What is the largest soccer contract ever recorded? ›
Highest value global sports contracts 2022
The biggest sports contract of all time, worth an estimated 674 million U.S. dollars, belonged to soccer star Lionel Messi. However, these large contracts are not limited to just soccer, but are also seen in other sports such as basketball, baseball, and American football.
Ronaldo leads the way with an estimated haul of $136 million, including $46 million from his playing salary and bonuses and $90 million from endorsements, appearances, licensing income and other business endeavors.Who is highest paid in football history? ›
Lionel Messi has been offered the most lucrative contract in the history of football, according to reports. The Argentinian World Cup winner looks set to depart PSG when his contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.Who is the most paid athlete? ›
Topping the list is Cristiano Ronaldo, who made an estimated $136 million over the last 12 months as he jumped from England's Premier League to Saudi Arabian soccer club Al Nassr.Who is the lowest paid NFL player? ›
While Tyrone Swoopes won the title of the lowest-paid NFL player in 2021, looking at the low end of league earners isn't as simple. NFL players face different minimum values that depend on their contract and designation as active or inactive players.Who is the highest paid NFL QB? ›
Just 10 days later, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson reportedly reached a record-breaking extension with a five-year deal for $260 million, making him the highest paid player in NFL history. It's a 5-year deal for $260M for Lamar Jackson, source said. The new highest paid QB.Which sport pays the most money? ›
NBA. NBA generates huge sums of money yearly - from sponsorship rights to income generated from NBA odds. Basketball is the highest-paid sport in the world, with an average annual NBA salary in 2023 of nearly $10.5 million.What sport gets the most money? ›
Basketball is the highest paid sport in the world, with the average annual salary in the NBA in 2023 being nearly $10.5 million.