A professional soccer player usually earns an above-average salary. As widespread as it is, soccer has for a long time now been a sport where professional athletes could easily become millionaires.
Being amongst the best ones doesn’t always mean the highest salary since various factors decide which players in the world are the richest.
Some of those factors are, for example, sponsorship deals. While a player earns a fixed salary, there are still other ways of increasing the earnings. If you’re not an above-average soccer enjoyer, you probably haven’t paid much attention to the different soccer boots (or cleats) that players wear. While this may sound a bit silly at first, footwear sponsorship deals are quite big in the world of soccer.
To some extent, players could make “transfers” here as well. A most recent example here would be Neymar’s move from Nike to Puma in 2020. Neymar Jr ended his 15-year relationship with the American sporting manufacturer giants to sign a contract with Puma. This meant that Neymar would from now on earn roughly a little bit over $25 million per year – a record-breaking deal.
Players also star in various commercials where they either sign a recurring type of contract or do a “one-time thing”. This also applies to movie or tv show deals. Depending on the player’s popularity, and recently some other factors like clout, these deals could vary but still be even more lucrative than those that players have with their clubs.
Another example of a factor that also affects players’ earnings is streaming. Players like Sergio Agüero have decided to reinvent themselves by becoming twitch streamers. Agüero was forced to finish his playing career a bit earlier than expected but has decided to stay in the world of soccer one way or another. A player that possesses quite solid soccer intelligence, Agüero constantly makes remarks during his streams and shows that streaming could be a really good option for retired players who are maybe not yet ready to take a role of a manager but still have something to say about the game.
Keep in mind that the world of soccer is quite hectic. Big transfers could occur every six months. That means that some of these players could either go up or down on this list. At the time of writing this article, these players are currently the richest soccer players in the world.
The legendary Argentinian who has recently won the World Cup in Qatar with his national team has been a prominent figure in football since his professional debut in 2004. Messi has managed to contribute to nearly one thousand goals throughout the entirety of his career both for Barcelona and PSG.
Lionel currently earns a sum of €3.375 million per month, but if you combine that with his lucrative sponsorship deals with Adidas, Pepsi, MasterCard, and Budweiser, you’ll probably get the idea of how large of an amount that actually is.
Ronaldo has been for years now seen as not only a renowned soccer player but a renowned brand as well. Even the people who haven’t watched a single soccer game in their entire lives know who CR7 is. With his enormous Instagram following of around 550 million at the time of writing this article, Ronaldo’s endorsement deals are worth quite a bit.
The Portuguese has made one of the biggest transfers in the history of soccer after moving to Al-Nassr, a Saudi club, in December 2022. The club offered Ronaldo a deal reported to be worth around €200 million (£177 million) annually. This means that CR7 earns £3.3 million per week at the moment.
Sir David Beckham is rightfully on this list since he wasn’t earning high wages only when he was an active player. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, PSG, and LA Galaxy star is currently a co-owner of Inter Miami.
When it comes to his life outside of the pitch, Beckham has established himself as a fashion icon. Some of his endorsements, among many others, are H&M, Tudor, Haig Whiskey, Armani, and Breitling. He was also reportedly paid £10 million to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
A record-breaker in many aspects of the sport, the PSG, and former Barcelona and Santos superstar currently earns quite a lot. It is hard to say exactly how much, but keep in mind that both his transfer from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 is still at the top of the list of highest transfer fees ever paid. Add the fact that he also had a record deal with Puma, and you’ll probably get an idea of how much money that actually is.
The Swede, just like the majority of other players on this list, has made some impressive milestones throughout his career – he has managed to win more than thirty trophies and has scored 600 club goals in the process, some of those clubs being AC Milan, Manchester United, Barcelona, PSG, and LA Galaxy, to name a few.
Zlatan has accumulated a substantial amount of wealth that matches his ego, thanks to his impressive earnings, highly successful autobiography, and continuous endorsement deals.
Dave Whelan might not be as famous for his playing career as some other names on this list, but rather for his accomplishments after his retirement. The former Blackburn Rovers star managed to turn JJB into a premier sports retailer in England. Not only that, but he also brought Wigan Athletic from Ligue 1 (English third tier) to the Premier League where they managed to stay for quite a bit and have also played an FA Cup final in the early 2010s.
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima or simply, Ronaldo, was renowned for being one of the world’s greatest finishers, having scored a total of 295 goals throughout his club career. He played for many top-tier clubs, some of them being Inter, AC Milan, Real Madrid, and Barcelona. He also managed to score 62 goals for Brazil and played a vital role in their 2002 World Cup journey. In addition to his football career, he has achieved success in the business world, where he currently holds the majority stake in Real Valladolid and owns the Brazilian team, Cruzeiro.
The former AC Milan and Internacional prodigy has unfortunately had a bit of an uneventful career look at his potential. He made his professional debut in 2006 at the age of 17.
Although still in his early thirties, Pato has played for numerous clubs, including AC Milan, Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Chelsea, Villarreal, and Tianjin, and returned to Sao Paulo before signing with an MLS side Orlando City.
Pato has accumulated the majority of his wealth through investments, sizeable property holdings, and lucrative endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics. Additionally, he has expanded his entrepreneurial ventures and now owns a chain of burger restaurants in Brasilia, a vodka brand, and a fashion line.
In May 2022, Mbappe agreed to a contract extension that would earn him a staggering €630 million in gross salary over three years. The contract also includes a signing bonus of €180 million, which he will receive even if he leaves the team before 2025, in addition to a loyalty bonus of €69 million.
Mbappe’s net worth is already substantial, thanks to his partnerships with top brands such as Nike, EA Sports, and Hublot. With his increased control over his image rights, we can expect his wealth to continue to grow.
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid star was reportedly earning an annual salary of around $30 million during his time in Spain. It was a bit surprising when he opted to take a considerable pay cut to join LAFC in the MLS, earning a mere £100,000 per week.
While endorsements have played a significant role in Bale’s earnings, including partnerships with Adidas, EA Sports, Lucozade, and BT Sport, he also generates a substantial income from sponsored posts to his 50 million followers on Instagram at the time of writing this article.
Considered one of the greatest players in Manchester United and the Premier League’s history, Wayne Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England (although tied with Harry Kane at the time of writing this article, which will probably change quite soon), having netted 253 goals in 559 appearances for Red Devils and 51 goals in 120 matches for England.
Rooney’s marketability is evident from his sponsorship deals with Nokia, Coca-Cola, Adidas, and FIFA, among others, making him one of the most sought-after active English footballers.
The list wouldn’t be quite complete if we didn’t mention a couple of soccer players who became rich outside of the world of soccer. We’re not talking about sponsorship and commercial deals. We’re talking about players who either come from a rich family or who have managed to entrepreneur their way into becoming multi-millionaires. The two we have in mind here would be Faiq Bolkiah and Mathieu Flamini.
Faiq Bolkiah, a member of Brunei’s royal family, is currently the wealthiest soccer player with a net worth of $20 billion in 2021. His family background is the key factor behind his position as the world’s richest player. Faiq is the son of Prince Jefri Bolkiah and currently plays for Portugal’s Maritimo club.
If you’ve never heard about Faiq Bolkiah, we’re pretty sure you’ve heard about the Arsenal and AC Milan star – Mathieu Flamini.
Flamini didn’t solely accumulate his wealth through his career on the soccer field. Despite being a prosperous player, he earned most of his money through ventures unrelated to the sport. One of these ventures is his ownership stake in GF Biochemicals, a company that manufactures Levulinic Acid, a molecule derived from plant waste that has the potential to replace gasoline.
Becoming a millionaire is quite a tremendous feat to some. Others might argue that becoming one isn’t that hard. Regardless of which of the two you agree with, there is no doubt that soccer has become one of the most prestigious sports in the world. You still can’t quite compare soccer to the likes of, let’s say, Formula 1 since the two sports have two completely different business models, but the fact that soccer is played in the entire world shows that there is a lot of heavy financing involved as well.
As mentioned in the introduction, being one of the best players in the world doesn’t necessarily mean being one of the most paid ones. Having a complete package by being a top-tier player, being charismatic, and being brandable definitely helps in becoming one of the leading faces in the current generation of top-tier soccer players.