Being a professional athlete can bank you big bucks. Paying eight-digit salaries each year, the top sports clubs make sure to keep their best players on their side of the pitch. But star players are not just athletes anymore. The top sports stars are landing lucrative marketing deals with some of the biggest brands, while some have even started their own businesses. Forbes curated a list of the highest-paid athletes in the world, counting both on-field and off-field earnings over the past 12 months. As of May 2022, the top 10 highest-paid athletes collectively earned $992 million before taxes and agents’ fees. Who made it to the top of the list?
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1. Lionel Messi: $130 million
Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi, who is considered one of the greatest players of all time, made the top of the list. It’s the second time the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner lands on No. 1 with his earnings reaching a total of $130 million over the past 12 months. While his skills on the field got him a salary of $75 million, he earned another $55 million off-field with an impressive list of partnerships with brands such as Socio, Adidas, and PepsiCo.
Looking at his career on the field, this year saw a big change for the Argentinian national player. After playing for FC Barcelona for 17 years, he made the transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. He won the national Ligue 1 title in the first season with the French team and is set to win the championship again next year. Experts are already giving PSG the best odds to come out at the top, as can be seen on the best-rated betting sites curated by SBO. Taking many factors and recent developments and events into account, the best bookmakers that have been reviewed and rated, calculate accurate odds for many different sports teams. PSG is not the only team with Messi with good odds to win again, as Messi’s Argentinian national team is also among the top 5 favorites to take home the world cup later this year. It’s, therefore, no surprise that his net worth is estimated to be $600 million.
2. LeBron James: $121.2 million
The NBA superstar LeBron James follows closely behind Messi: with a total of $121.2 million in earnings on and off the court, the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard ranks in second place among the highest-paid athletes according to Forbes’ list. James, who is often compared to the basketball legend Michael Jordan as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, earns a yearly salary of $41.2 million in the NBA, while his off-field earnings are almost double that.
James’ net worth is supposed to be even higher than Messi’s and is estimated to clock in at $800 million – not just because of his incredible performance in the NBA, but also because of his projects off-court. He starred in the 2021 movie Space Jam: A New Legacy and has a talk show called The Shop. He also created the production company SpringHill Company behind both those productions. Besides those, he has further investments and endorsement deals that drive his income and net worth, even though the Lakers didn’t make it to the playoffs this season.
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3. Cristiano Ronaldo: $115 million
The seemingly eternal rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has been going on for years and doesn’t just take place on the pitch in the question of who is the greatest football player of all time, but also in the ranking of the best-paid athletes. Ronaldo lands on No. 3 with an income of $115 million over the last 12 months. The former Real Madrid and Juventus Turin player moved to Premier League club Manchester United in August 2021 and garnered $60 million in on-field earnings.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner doesn’t just dominate on the pitch. He also has several investments and businesses, as well as immensely lucrative endorsement deals that earned him $55 million in off-field earnings last year. With his massive following on social media, his own fashion brand, and sponsorship deals with big brands such as Nike, Ronaldo has an estimated net worth of roughly $500 million, up from $460 million in 2019. Sports stars are much more than athletes nowadays, as more professional players embrace investments and partnerships off-field as well. With Messi, James, and Ronaldo, three of the best players in their respective sports lead the list of the best-paid athletes this year