Highest paid football stars in 2021: how much do Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi make?



They may have joined new clubs this summer, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi continue to be eternal rivals fighting for records, trophies, fans and dollars. The battle for the latter category is reaching some overwhelming numbers.

Forbes has released the latest edition of its list of the Highest Paid Football Players in the World, which adds up the gross base salary and bonuses of each player with advertising contracts and other commercial partnerships. It was the two at the top again.

How did Forbes writer Christina Settimi get on the list? The publication has consulted clubs, agents, sponsors and football experts.

MORE: Dissolve Ronaldo’s contract with Man United

Ronaldo vs. Messi: who makes more money?

Forbes calculates that Messi at PSG ($ 75 million) has the higher gross base salary than Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United ($ 70 million). But Ronaldo surpasses him on the other sources of income and lifts him to number 1 on the rankings.

The article quotes Ronaldo’s deals with Nike, Herbalife and Clear in addition to what he already brings in through his personal CR-7 portfolio. That $ 55 million total is the fourth highest of any active athlete and better than Messi, who, according to Forbes estimates, brings in $ 35 million in advertising through brands like adidas, Pepsi and Budweiser.

Don’t cry for Messi: In his 21 years at FC Barcelona in Spain, he deposited over $ 1 billion, including $ 875 million in salary alone. Ronaldo became the first team sport athlete to break the $ 1 billion mark, according to Forbes.

On the other hand, Ronaldo is the most popular athlete in the world, measured by social media followers, which total more than half a billion. This is where that popularity pays off: According to the report, after joining Manchester United, Ronaldo has sold more shirts through sporting goods retailer Fanatics than any other superstar who has made a high profile move in recent years, including Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), LeBron James (LA Lakers 2018) and Messi (on PSG 2021).

MORE: In the numbers of Messi’s PSG contract

Messi was the first to make a high profile move on August 10 when he signed as a free agent with PSG after his contract with long-time club FC Barcelona expired. A few weeks later, it was Ronaldo who moved from Italian club Juventus to Manchester United in a $ 28 million transaction. Man United is the club where Ronaldo became a world star between 2003 and 2009.

Who else is on the Forbes money list?

What stands out about the Forbes top 10 list is the top half. Of the first four names, three are PSG players: Neymar (No. 3) and Kylian Mbappe (No. 4) are right behind Messi in the ranking. It is common knowledge that PSG has deep pockets: it is owned by the Emir of Qatar through the Qatar Sports Investments group. However, the PSG club president insists that the French team respect the rules of financial fair play in European football.

But the drop is sizeable after Neymar’s $ 95 million total compensation. Mbappe doesn’t even make half of it ($ 43 million total). But EA Sports FIFA 22’s cover boy is still only 22 years old, and Forbes says he’s already above what Ronaldo and Messi deserved at his age.

MORE: When will Ronaldo play for Man United and Messi for PSG?

The other names on the list come as no surprise, except for the 37-year-old Andres Iniestawho continues to practice his craft in Japan. He is the only player on the list based outside of Europe.

Real Madrid fans will wince at the last two names in the top 10 as they haven’t contributed much in recent years. The club brought in manager Carlos Ancelotto to see if he could change that.


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