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The 10 Highest Paid Athletes in the World

There has never been a better time to be a top athlete in your sport or key player in a popular team sport. Money from TV rights is fuelling massive increases in player salaries across basketball, American football, golf, and soccer.

Here at PledgeSports, we have crunched the numbers to give you the current Top 10 Richest Athletes in the world – apologies in advance for making you feel poor!


1. Floyd Mayweather

Earnings: $285m

richest athletes

Back at the top of the pile since his last outing in 2015 against Manny Paquiao, Floyd has earned himself a whopping $200 million plus extra endorsements for his bout with UFC superstar Conor McGregor. The Super Fight took place in August of 2017, and ranked among one of the most watched boxing events ever. Mayweather cashed in and defeated McGregor in the latter rounds, a win that seen Floyd reach the iconic 50-0.

2. Lionel Messi

Earnings: $111m

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He has won the FIFA player of the year award five times and his playing contract is loaded with bonuses for such feats, which help make him one of the highest-paid on the pitch. In a twist of events, a Spanish court found Messi guilty of tax fraud in July 2016.

The Argentine captain was sentenced to 21 months in prison, although he almost certainly will serve the time as probation instead of behind bars.

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3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Earnings: $108m

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The Portuguese international had a stellar 2016 with both club and country, lifting the Champions League with Real Madrid in May before captaining his country to European glory at the Euros in the summer.

On a personal level, he broke the 50-goal mark for the sixth successive season with Madrid, warranting a contract worth $50 million per year plus bonuses.

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Throw in his fourth Balon D’Or and it’s not hard to see why Cristiano Ronaldo was the highest earning athlete of last year. He’s the world’s most popular athlete with over 200 million social media followers, helping him land head-to-toe sponsorships including Nike, Tag Heuer, Sacoor Brothers suits and Monster headphones.

4. Conor McGregor

Earnings: $99m

richest athletes

Conor McGregor talked the talk and eventually walked the walk, Mayweather and himself lifted a very nice pay day last summer when the two men put on a super show. McGregor always knew this was a win win scenario we he announced he would leave the octagon for the boxing ring. When would the Irishman ever get the chance to fight of the greatest of all-time again? Probably never! With the huge sponsorship deals and purse on the night, McGregor now earned more than Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017, something that Conor has promised he would do for a long time.

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5. Neymar

Earnings $90m

In August 2017, the Brazilian superstar signed a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain worth a total cash outlay of more than $600 million. Of that, $250 million was paid to his former club Barcelona to release him from his contract there. The remaining $350 million will be paid in salary through his playing contract that lasts until June 2022. The 26-year old works off the pitch with global sponsors Nike, Red Bull, Gillette, McDonalds and Beats by Dre. He was the first soccer player to have his own custom Air Jordan sneakers made by the Swoosh.

6. LeBron James

Earnings: $85.5m

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LeBron last ranked in the top 10 in 2014 just after winning back-to-back NBA championships in Miami.

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Since then he has earned three All-Star honours, gone to two NBA Finals and cemented his place as one of the all-time basketball greats by leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and win Cleveland’s first professional sports championship in over 50 years.

“The King” James has been signed to Nike since he was a baby-faced teen. Pair that with a Coke endorsement and it seems his bank account will be near billions in the black for the foreseeable future.

7. Roger Federer

Earnings: $77.2m

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Roger Federer’s 16-year streak of Grand Slam appearances ended at 65 in May 2016 when a back problem caused him to pulled out of the French Open.

He remains the top player off the court with $60 million in earnings from deals with blue-chip companies like Nike, Rolex. Mercedes-Benz and Credit Suisse.

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Federer has won $98 million in prize money during his 18-year career, most recently topping up his earnings with a victory over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open earlier this year.

8. Stephen Curry

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Earnings: $47.3m

The Warriors’ talismanic point guard makes the Forbes list for the first time following an extension in his deal with Under Armour and contract with the Golden State outfit.

On the court Curry has resumed his best form, leading the Warriors to another NBA finals where they currently hold a 3-0 lead over LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Houston Rockets shooting guard is a godsend for marketers, with his trademark beard making its way across social media platforms, t-shirts and other apparel on its way to becoming an iconic symbol. Harden recently signed a $200m deal with Adidas, giving his bank account the boost it needed to make the top 10.

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9. Matt Ryan

Earnings $63.7

Ryan became the NFL’s first $30 million-per-year player in May when the Falcons locked up their franchise quarterback through 2023. The deal set new records for average salary ($30 million), total value ($150 million), guaranteed money ($100 million) and signing bonus ($46.5 million, with half deferred to April 2019). Ryan won the 2016 NFL MVP, while leading the league in passing and getting the Falcons to the Super Bowl. The MVP and Super Bowl raised his marketing profile. His robust endorsement profile includes big brands like Nike, Gatorade, Delta Airlines, IBM, Mercedes Benz and Banana Republic.

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10. Mathew Stafford

Earnings 59.5

Stafford signed the richest contract in NFL history last summer (since exceeded by Jimmy Garoppolo and Matt Ryan). The five-year deal is worth $135 million with $60.5 million guaranteed. The $50 million signing bonus included $34 million at the time of signing in August 2017 and $16 million at the start of 2018. Stafford was the #1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and a Pro Bowler in 2014. He led the NFC in passing yards and set an NFL record as the fastest to 3,000 completions for his career (125 games). Stafford endorses Nike, PepsiCo, Fanatics, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Ford Motor, Panini and St. Joe’s Hospital.

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Source: Forbes

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