Everyone knows the best footballers in the world are paid vast amounts of money and the biggest stars can earn fortunes from the game, especially if you factor in weighty bonuses, extra fees and the raft of sponsorship and endorsement deals on offer.
There are various lists online detailing who is paid the most with some conflicting results. However, for the purposes of this top 5, we have turned to the respected American business magazine Forbes, who produce regular ‘rich lists’ in a whole host of industries, including sport, although we have only included reported salaries and not total reported earnings in the figures.
1. Lionel Messi – Paris Saint-Germain
Messi is arguably the greatest footballer of all time, so it follows suit he’s also the biggest earner.
A Barcelona legend of the highest order, Messi scored 672 goals during a trophy-laden 18-year career with the Catalan giants, winning 35 league and cup titles and dozens of individual awards, including the Ballon d’Or a record six times.
He was forced to leave Barca due to their financial problems in the summer and during an emotional press conference to confirm his exit, the Argentinian superstar was reduced to tears when explaining why he had to depart.
PSG were probably the only club that could satisfy his wage demands and reports say he penned a deal worth £50m per year as a base salary before tax when making the move to the Parc des Princes.
2. Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Brazilian forward Neymar is another of PSG’s prized assets, swapping Barcelona for Paris in 2017 for a world record 223 million euros transfer fee.
The 29-year-old signed another hugely lucrative four-year contract extension earlier this year to tie him to the Ligue 1 side until 2025 and he was seen as vital in helping persuade his former Blaugrana team-mate, Lionel Messi, to join him in Paris when the Argentinian completed his stunning exit from the Nou Camp.
Neymar has racked up a sensational 265 club goals for Santos, Barca and PSG during his career, plus he’s also registered 70 goals in 116 caps for Brazil.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United
Ronaldo is at three on the list after rejoining Manchester United in the summer. The Portuguese ace, who hit 101 goals in a three-year spell with Juventus, has won pretty much all the game has to offer, including five Champions League titles, the European Championship for his country and seven league titles in England, Spain and Italy as he starred for United, Real Madrid and Juve.
He’s still looking as fit as ever at 36, holds the record for the most amount of international goals with 110 for Portugal and reports say he’s made over $1billion in career earnings before tax.
4. Andres Iniesta – Vissel Kobe
A surprising name on this list, 37-year-old Spanish midfielder and Barcelona legend Iniesta now has a huge salary deal playing in Japan for J1 League outfit Vissel Kobe, who he joined in 2018.
During a glittering 17-year professional career with Barca, Iniesta won everything. His honours list includes nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Reys and the Champions League four times – on top of lifting the UEFA Super Cup twice and FIFA Club World Cup three times.
The 2010 World Cup winner was also named in the UEFA Team of the Year six times and the FIFA FIFPro World XI on nine occasions to underline his reputation as one of the best midfielders to ever grace the game.
5. Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain
French forward Mbappe had already played a key role as a teenager in Monaco’s Ligue 1 title triumph in 2016-17 before he then helped his country win the World Cup in 2018 when still only 19.
His four goals in the tournament, including one in the final against Croatia, made him a global superstar.
The Parisiens have made him one of their best-paid players, recognising his ability as one of the world’s most complete forwards but he’s expected to leave the Parc des Princes when his contract expires at the end of the season, with a huge switch to Real Madrid thought to be in the offing.