Pay: $111 M
Salary/winnings: $84 M
Endorsements: $27 M
Club: FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi is currently the world’s highest-paid soccer player. The Argentinian has played for FC Barcelona since 2000, when he was just 13 years old. In 2017, Messi signed a contract to stay with the club through the 2020-2021 season which included a €700 million (approximately $822 million) buyout clause. According to Forbes, the star brought in $111 million this past year.
Closely following Messi is Christiano Ronaldo, who was the world’s highest-paid athlete the previous year. Ronaldo signed a contract extension with Real Madrid in 2016 that is expected to be worth more than $50 million a year before taxes. He also is known for landing lucrative endorsement deals from companies like Nike and Tag Heuer.
Despite their sky-high earnings, both Messi and Ronaldo have faced accusations of tax fraud. In 2016, Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, were found guilty on three counts of defrauding tax authorities of €4.1 million ($4.6 million). In 2017, Ronaldo was accused by the Spanish government of defrauding Spain’s revenue offices of almost € 5 million ($17.5 million) in unpaid taxes.
All of the highest-paid players were men, and all were either forwards or midfielders. Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate, Wales’ Gareth Bale, is the only highest-paid player to not have his national team qualify for the World Cup.
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