The World’s Richest Athletes. The athlete with the highest salary.

The World’s Richest Athletes. The athlete with the highest salary.

The World’s Richest Athletes

Professional sport is only about great talents, pools of fans, spectacular performance, and sports betting but also a world of big business, huge amounts of bucks, and wealthy people.  

Being a superstar athlete does pay off. Apart from player contracts, athletes have plenty of opportunities to count on their popularity, but not all of them reach their potential when it comes to gathering a career wealth. On-field income includes all prize money, salaries, and bonuses, while off-field income comprises earnings from sponsorship deals, entry fees, and licensing income, as well as revenue from any businesses the athlete runs.

It takes hard work, innate sports skills, a solid playing experience, smart management, and sometimes a little luck to become a brand. Only some athletes manage to turn relatively short careers into huge fortunes for many years to come and are still getting paid millions even long after they have left the competition field. Who are these lucky ones, the highest paid sports stars? Who contrives to earn the highest salaries in sports? Who is the richest sportsman? We’re here to shed light on these questions.

At the end of May each year, Forbes compiles a rich athlete list based on stats over the previous season of play. The analysts take into account income from all sources: salaries and bonuses, prize money, advertising contracts, and business. Forbes omits taxes to take into calculations; otherwise, the list of rich sportsmen would be strongly influenced by the tax policies of each country. 

If you’re an online football betting enthusiast, you’ll be glad to see that the top-10 includes the most footballers, with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo being in the limelight. Those who are involved in betting on basketball will find some of their favorites on the list as well. Last year’s leader, Roger Federer, ranks only seventh this year. 

Notably, the ranking shows that one does not have to be the most successful performer in order to be among top sports earners. The number one is clear proof of that.

Highest-paid athletes in the world right now

Big MMA betting name triumphantly opens the rating! Yeah, you’ve guessed right, it’s Conor McGregor! Although the past 12 months have not been fortunate for the Irishman in the ring, it did not prevent him from earning about 180 million dollars. The main part of his income was provided by the successful whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve sales deal, which brought him 150 million dollars. The remaining profits were derived from sales of the Roots Of Fight clothing brand and investment in the Dystopia: Contest Of Heroes game. Thus, the UFC star has outrun two soccer legends and become this year’s richest athlete in the world.

The silver medal goes to one of the best players in the world and former Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi, whose total annual earnings reached $130 million. In addition to his main income (97M USD), Messi receives funds from a life contract with Adidas, as well as the clothing line of Jeannie Hilfiger (Tommy Hilfiger’s sister). All kinds of advertising contracts with Lay’s, Pepsi, and other companies allowed the footballer to leapfrog his “staunch opponent”.

Manchester United forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, rounds out the top three sportsmen with the highest earnings. His four-year contract with Juventus averaging $64 million a year, lifetime contract with Nike, the CR7 brand clothing company, hotel chain, and gyms brought him $120 million in total. Additionally, in early 2021, the Portuguese reached his 770th official goal in his professional career and broke the record set by Brazilian legend Pele (767).

The NFL’s great, Dak Prescott, comes in fourth-highest paying sportsman. An ankle injury didn’t prevent the Dallas Cowboys star from hitting the top-10. This is because of a lucrative $66 million bonus for a club contract extension. Also, Prescott has recently announced an investment in four branches of the Walk-On’s restaurant chain in Texas. Thus, his overall annual income amounted to $107.5 million.

The number 5, among the top athletes who have been paid a fortune, is Los Angeles Lakers’ “King James” with his 96.5M USD revenue. It was a really fruitful season for LeBron James that set an NBA record for earnings becoming a fourth-time champion. In addition to basketball, the athlete makes money in advertising, working with Coca-Cola, Nike, Samsung, Dunkin Donuts, etc. He is also a part-owner of the Liverpool soccer club. 

Neymar also looks worthy in this high-paid sports players race. Curiously, the Brazilian’s salary at PSG is slightly lower than Messi’s one, but when it comes to bonuses, the total sum turns out to be even bigger! For example, in Neymar’s contract, there is a bonus for the good behavior to the value of 5M USD. According to this ethical clause, he has to smile more, meet the fans after the match, etc. In general, Neymar makes money on everything. In contrast to Ronaldo and Messi that work mainly with large firms, the Brazilian has already signed more than 50 contacts with 46 different brands. Among them are coffee selling firms, fast food, banks, investment companies, mobile operators, computer games, and many more. As a comparison, Ronaldo cut about 31 deals.

A year ago, Roger Federer topped the list of most paying athletes with $106 million, but now he ranks only seventh. However, Roger was again the only tennis player in this elite group. The earnings of world number one, Novak Djokovic, and King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, are much more modest. Interestingly enough, the Grand Slam star got almost all of his earnings ($90M) off the court – he missed the most part of the season due to a knee injury. The tennis player cashed in on ad contracts with such brands as Rolex, Credit Suisse, and UNIQLO. 

Having equaled Schumacher’s record, the British racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, became the Formula One champion for the seventh time in 2020. His 11 race wins last season afforded him good profits – he got generous bonuses from Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy, and Puma. He also built his racing team to compete in the Extreme E Racing Series.

Tom Brady can also boast of a profitable year ($76M). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback signed a lucrative contract with Christopher Clos – a leading manufacturer of premium eyewear. Brady is also a successful businessman: he already owns wellness brand TB12 and a film production company, and he is going to launch his own NFT platform Autograph – it will bring together famous brands, athletes, and people from the entertainment and fashion industries to create digital collectibles.

Another NBA star, with his $75M income, is included in the Forbes rating. Brooklyn forward, Kevin Durant, who got back into the game after a heavy injury, early in the season, demonstrated the most productive results in his career. Additionally, he became a media mogul thanks to his own company, Thirty-Five Ventures, which produces documentaries, TV shows, and movies about basketball. 

All-time highest-paid athletes

But have these stars of 2021 managed to beat the giants in history? Let’s look at the wealthiest sportsmen of all time for comparison. 

Forbes recognized Michael Jordan as the highest-paid athlete here. If you summarize all the money the multiple NBA champion earned with the Chicago Bulls, you’ll get $1.85 billion! In addition to his professional basketball salary and numerous bonuses, Jordan made a significant portion of his fortune thanks to advertising contracts. Since 1984 he has worked with such companies as Gatorade, Upper Deck, Hanes, and Nike. Nike alone pays Jordan more than $100 million a year! The basketballer also invested in the Charlotte Hornets, whose value grows year after year. 

The second position goes to golfer Tiger Woods, who earned about $1.7 billion. The 14-time major tournament winner made most of his money on advertising – contracts with TaylorMade, Bridgestone, American Express, EA Sports, General Motors, and Nike. Although Woods has been pursued by injuries and scandals in recent years, he continues to receive money from sponsors and appear in commercials.

Two other golfers made more than a billion each – the third-ranked Arnold Palmer, who passed away last September, and Jack Nicklaus. The latter has created an entire business empire, which is engaged in real estate, ice cream, soda, and wine-making.

Of the footballers, the highest-ranking is the Englishman David Beckham ($ 800 million). He has never won the World Cup or European Championship, but in the hunt for advertising contracts, he has managed to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi! He helped the world’s largest producer of spirits, Diageo, promote the Haig Club whiskey brand and still gets profit on the sales.

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