Image Source: NBC
Lionel Messi may have taken a pay cut when leaving Barcelona as a free agent to link up with Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021, but his superstar appeal has ensured that he takes the No.1 spot on Forbes’ run down of the highest-paid athletes on the planet.
Endorsements away from the pitch, alongside a lucrative deal at Parc des Princes, have allowed the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to pip NBA legend LeBron James to first place on a notable chart that also includes Manchester United frontman Cristiano Ronaldo and PSG forward Neymar.
Iconic figures from the worlds of basketball, NFL, tennis and boxing complete the top 10, with there some serious marketing appeal on show in a run down of those that continue to pull in the biggest pay cheques.
Over the last year, the top ten highest earners, all of whom are men, earned a total of $992 million in pre-tax gross earnings.
Messi has been chastised for some of his off-field endorsements, including boosting Saudi Arabia tourism recently. He was photographed in Saudi Arabia and shared a photo with the hashtag #VisitSaudi on his personal Instagram account.
Sportswashing has long been accused of hiding the country’s terrible human rights record.
“Qatar, the dubious crypto business Socios, and Saudi Arabia are all new revenue sources for Messi. Man must eat, “Tariq Panja of the New York Times tweeted this.
NBA superstar LeBron James comes in second on the list, with a yearly salary of $121.2 million. The Los Angeles Lakers forward may have missed the playoffs this season, but he’s been a force off the court, with a talk show and a role in last year’s Space Jam: A New Legacy. James is now worth an estimated $850 million, according to Forbes.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who earned $115 million after joining Manchester United from Juventus, rounds out the top three. Off the field, the Portuguese superstar earns the same amount as Messi, with the majority of his earnings coming from his unequaled social media presence.
Ronaldo has 690 million Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter followers, allowing him to command larger sponsorship prices from a variety of firms.
The figures are based on prize money, salary, and bonuses, as well as estimates of sponsorship deals and other off-field revenue streams, according to Forbes.