The debate over whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is the world’s greatest footballer may never truly be resolved, but the Portuguese star certainly has the advantage in the earning stakes.
Forbes has reported that Ronaldo raked in $82 million last year to cement his status as the world’s highest-paid footballer, with Messi finishing second with $77m.
Real Madridís all-time leading scorer topped up his $53m annual salary with $29m in endorsements from top companies such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Herbalife.
Messi earned $51m from Barcelona plus a further $26m in sponsorships from the likes of Adidas, Gatorade and EA Sports.
Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made $37m last year, with $30m coming from the 34-year old’s contract with Paris St Germain.
His 38 goals and 14 assists during 2015 cost the club $579,000 each, comparing favorably to his two La Liga rivals who earned over $720,000 each time they scored or set up a goal.
Messi’s teammate Neymar finished fourth on the list, although his earnings were heavily boosted by his off-field activities.
He made just $14 million in salary and bonuses, but pulled in another $22 million from a range of endorsements including Nike and Beats by Dr Dre.
Gareth Bale rounded off the top five with total earnings of over $34 million, although his endorsements of just under $10m lag behind the big two of Ronaldo and Messi.
Wayne Rooney ($25.8m), Sergio Aguero ($24.4m), Luis Suarez ($22.8m), Eden Hazard ($22.2m) and Cesc Fabregas ($20.8m) complete the top 10,
Ronaldo’s career earnings of $550m compare favorably with football’s original poster David Beckham, with the former Manchester United star making $650m to date – $450m coming from his playing years.
Kobe Bryant is the only team sport athlete who earned more during his playing career. He retired from the NBA in April with $680m in career earnings.
Golfer Tiger Woods ($1.4billion), Formula One driver Michael Schumacher ($800m) and boxer Floyd Mayweather ($700m) are the highest ever earners from individual sports.
Highest Earning Players 2015
(salary and endorsements)
- Cristiano Ronaldo $82.1 mil
- Lionel Messi $76.5 mil
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic $37.1 mil
- Neymar $36.3 mil
- Gareth Bale $34.4 mil
- Wayne Rooney $25.8 mil
- Sergio Aguero $24.4 mil
- Luis Suarez $22.8 mil
- Eden Hazard $22.2 mil
- Cesc Fabregas $20.8 mil