Creative Soccer Culture

Messi Tops Forbes' Highest Earning Athlete List Ahead Of Ronaldo

Lionel Messi has been named the world’s highest paid athlete for the first time ever by Forbes magazine, edging out perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo and PSG’s Brazilian star, Neymar.

According to Forbes magazine who compile the annual list, Messi earned $127m (£100m) in the last 12 months, compared to Ronaldo's $109m (£86m). Neymar comes in at number three with $105m (£83m). The figures are calculated by taking the individuals earnings, made up of salary, prize money and endorsements, between June 2018 and June 2019. Last year's top earner, Floyd Mayweather, earned $285m (£224m), but this year does not appear in the top 100. Despite the big drop off in earnings from the number one spot, the top 100's combined earnings of $4bn (£3.1bn) are up 5% from last year.

Messi 2-min.jpg

Messi is only the second footballer to top the rankings after Ronaldo, who topped the list in 2016 and 2017, while it’s also the first time that footballers have ranked as the top three earners in sports. Perhaps surprisingly considering the money in England, Manchester United's Paul Pogba is the highest earning Premier League player in 44th place with $33m (£25.9m).

Messi's current Barcelona contract will take him through to the end of the 2020/21 and it pays him over $80 million annually. Including prize money, this figure was bumped up to approximately $92m over the last 12 months. He also has a lifelong deal with adidas, while sponsorship deals with Gatorade, MasterCard, Pepsi, Huawei among others will have added an estimated $35 million to his impressive salary and winnings. 

Top 10

1 Lionel Messi $127m (£99.8m) | $35m of endorsements

2 Cristiano Ronaldo $109m (£85.6m) | $44m of endorsements

3 Neymar $105m (£82.5m) | $30m of endorsements

4 Canelo Alvarez $94m (£73.8m)

5 Roger Federer $93.4m (£73.3)

6 Russell Wilson $89.5m (£70.3m)

7 Aaron Rodgers $89.3m £70.1m)

8 LeBron James $89m (£69.9m)

9 Stephen Curry $79.8m (£62.7m)

10 Kevin Durant $65.4m (£51.3m)

The rest of the footballers:

44 Paul Pogba $33m (£25.9m) | $4m of endorsements

46 Andres Iniesta $32.5m (£25.5m) | $2.5m of endorsements

53 Alexis Sanchez $30.8m (£24.1m) | $2.5m endorsements

55 Kylian Mbappe $30.6m (£24m) | $4m of endorsements

57 Mesut Ozil $30.2m (£23.7m) | $6.4m of endorsements

66 Oscar $29m (£22.8m) | $2m of endorsements

75 Antoine Griezmann $27.7m (£21.7m) | $4.5m of endorsements 

79 Gareth Bale $27.1m (£21.2m) | $6.5m of endorsements

99 Mo Salah $25.1m (£19.7m) | $9m of endorsements


The top three of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are miles in front of the chasing pack in terms of football. CR7 rakes in the most in terms of endorsement deals, with Messi earning the most from salary and prize money. You have to go down to #44 to find the next footballer in Paul Pogba who raked home $4m in endorsements – a player with a colossal marketing presence and still nowhere close to the top three.

Liverpool forward Mo Salah is the fourth highest earning footballer in terms of endorsements as he banked $9m from sponsors. The top three may be footballers but American Sports still dominate in terms of consistency amongst the top 50. One final shoutout to Roger Federer, 37 years old and always in the top 5. Want real money? Play on your own. Failing that, flog lots of pants.

See the complete top 100 list at

Daniel Jones

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