Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in the World (2019)

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi Sky Sports

Given the high levels of dedication, sacrifice and pressure involved, a career in professional sport can be pretty demanding. It is also hugely rewarding, too, with those at the peak of their global powers able to command the kind of earnings that could fund a small economy.

In an effort to determine who sits atop the pile (quite literally, in terms of cash earnings), we’ve compiled the latest publicly available information; the results may or may not surprise you. We’ve only included currently active sportspeople (so boxing legend Floyd Mayweather misses out, for example), and taken into account sponsorship and endorsement revenue as well as base salaries and/or prize monies.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 highest paid athletes of 2019.

10. Kevin Durant

Kevin DurantSB Nation

Sport: Basketball

Nationality: American

Salary/Winnings: $30.4 million (£24.8 million)

Endorsement earnings: $35 million (£28.6 million)

Total earnings: $65.4 (£53.4 million)

As a player who has won everything there is to win in the NBA (including two championships with the Golden State Warriors), small forward Kevin Durant has little left to prove on the basketball court. His achievements – as well as his philanthropy – have made him a hugely popular figure off the court, too, a status that is reflected in the highly lucrative endorsements he can attract. These include deals with Foot Locker, Nike and 2K Sports, while his agent happens to be rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z.

9. Stephen Curry

Stephen CurryHoopsHype / USA Today

Sport: Basketball

Nationality: American

Salary/Winnings: $37.8 million (£30.9 million)

Endorsement earnings: $42 million (£34.3 million)

Total earnings: $79.8 million (£65.2 million)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest three-point shooters in basketball history, the three-time NBA Champion and two-time MVP has enjoyed a highly successful playing career with the Golden State Warriors. It’s also been a lucrative one, supported by his sponsorship deals with Under Armour, Chase, Sony Pictures and, more recently, Palm and Rakuten.

At the time of writing, Curry looks on course to adding another MVP award to his growing collection of wins.

8. LeBron James

LeBron JamesInternational Business Times

Sport: Basketball

Nationality: American

Salary/Winnings: $36 million (£29.4 million)

Endorsement earnings: $53 million (£43.6 million)

Total earnings: $89 million (£72.7 million)

As one of the most famous names in American sport, as well as one of the most decorated (including three NBA Championships, four MVP Awards and three Finals MVP Awards), the Ohio-born small forward has amassed a huge fortune over his lengthy playing career.

This has resulted in lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, Intel and Nike, as well as the holding and management of several active business interests. His 2018 switch from Cleveland to the LA Lakers, meanwhile, serves to underline his Hollywood ambitions – James is touted to star in the much-anticipated sequel to Michael Jordan’s Space Jam in 2021.

7. Aaron Rodgers

Aaron RodgersFox Sports

Sport: American football

Nationality: American

Salary/Winnings: $80.3 million (£65.6 million)

Endorsement earnings: $9 million (£7.3 million)

Total earnings: $89.3 million (£73 million)

As one of America’s top football stars, Aaron Rogers has built quite an empire for himself. Rogers has earned the title of the fastest-ever quarterback, while his career passer rating is the highest in NFL history. It is no wonder, then, that he has landed a spot in the top 10 highest-paid athletes. Indeed, in 2018, the quarterback landed a lucrative four-year contract extension with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, worth $134 million ($109.6 million).

When he’s not setting impressive records in the field, the seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time MVP pursues various business ventures. These include a minority ownership stake in the MBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and collaborating with Roth Capital Partner as of 2019.

6. Russell Wilson

Russell WilsonNBC Sports

Sport: American football

Nationality: American

Salary/Winnings: $80.5 million (£65.8 million)

Endorsement earnings: $9 million (£7.4 million)

Total earnings: $89.5 million (£73.2 million)

The Seattle Seahawks’ star quarterback became the highest-paid NFL player after signing a four-year contract extension worth $140 million (£114.5 million). With multiple wins under his belt, his most notable achievement was carrying the Seahawks to their first and only Super Bowl victory back in 2014.

Rogers’ success, however, doesn’t stop in the football field. Indeed, the top quarterback is also an entrepreneur; he’s the CEO of brand management company West2East Empire and an investor in the Portland Diamond Project.

5. Roger Federer

Roger FedererLe Courrier Australien

Sport: Tennis

Nationality: Swiss

Salary/Winnings: $7.4m (£6 million)

Endorsement earnings: $86 million (£70.3 million)

Total earnings: $93.4 million (£76.4 million)

Tennis legend Roger Federer was meant to be winding down quietly to retirement, but has undergone something of a renaissance in the last two years, winning three majors and returning to the summit of the rankings – all at the grand old age of 38. Federer’s primary source of income continues to be his highly lucrative sponsorship deals, though; he works closely with the likes of CreditSuisse, Rolex, and Mercedes-Benz.

4. Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez

Saul “Canelo” ÁlvarezFox Sports

Sport: Boxing

Nationality: Mexican

Salary/Winnings: $92 million (£75.2 million)

Endorsement earnings: $2 million (£1.6 million)

Total earnings: $94 million (£76.8 million)

A three-weight world champion renowned for his ferocious body shots and intuitive counterpunching, Álvarez enters the top 10 this year primarily due to the lucrative earnings of his fight with Gennady Golovkin in late 2018. Since then, the Mexican middleweight has also successfully defended his titles against challengers Rocky Fielding and Daniel Jacobs, while a record-breaking third bout with Golovkin remains a possibility. Álvarez also penned a five-year, $365 million (£298.4 million) broadcasting deal with sports streaming provider DAZN in October 2018.

3. Neymar Jr

Neymar cheering on football pitch

Sport: Football

Nationality: Brazilian

Salary/Winnings: $75 million (£61.3 million)

Endorsement earnings: $30 million (£24.5 million)

Total earnings: $105 million (£85.8 million)

Known for his frequently changing hairstyles and carefree approach to playing, Brazilian superstar Neymar made huge waves in August 2017 when he left Spanish giants Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record €222 million ($242.2 million / £198 million) deal. The highly talented forward is also adept at generating revenue away from the football pitch, too, signing a variety of endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Panasonic and Volkswagen.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Sport: Football

Nationality: Portuguese

Salary/Winnings: $65 million (£53.1 million)

Endorsement earnings: $44 million (£35.9 million)

Total earnings: $109 million (£89.1 million)

Widely regarded as one of the most talented players of all time, the Portuguese forward has amassed multiple honours and individual awards for former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid, as well as winning the Serie A title in his first season with Italian giants Juventus.

He has also firmly established the CR7 brand (after his playing number), with an entire museum and airport dedicated to him on his home island of Madeira. Despite his perceived flashiness, Ronaldo is also lauded for his relentless work ethic, his constant pursuit of perfection and his philanthropy; the Sporting Lisbon youth product also possesses a shrewd business mind, shaving signed lucrative deals with the likes of Nike, Herbalife and Tag Heuer.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel MessiGoal.com

Sport: Football

Nationality: Argentinian

Salary/Winnings: $92 million (£75.2 million)

Endorsement earnings: $35 million (£28.6 million)

Total earnings: $127 million (£103.8 million)

Sat atop of the list, though, is an Argentinian phenomenon. Widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi penned a four-year contract extension with his club, Barcelona, in November 2017 to secure a salary befitting of his status.

Like his long-time rival Ronaldo, Messi has won an absolute multitude of personal and team awards and continues to break various records on a seemingly weekly basis. Despite a conviction for tax fraud in 2016, he is still one of the most marketable athletes on the globe, too, penning significant sponsorship deals with the likes of Adidas, Huawei and Pepsi.

As you can see, a career at the pinnacle of professional sport is handsomely rewarding, with the NBA, in particular, paying eye-watering salaries. The marketing opportunities on offer also provide the chance for top performers to supplement their income significantly.

You may have noticed the lack of female stars on this list, too. Although established tennis stars like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova earn the same prize money as their male counterparts – and household names like Ronda Rousey attract lucrative sponsorship deals – there’s still clearly some way to go when it comes to pay disparity.

Either way, don’t be fooled by the figures here in general. Every single name on this list arrived where they are today through hard work and good decision making, just as much as natural talent. Indeed, even if your shot at sporting glory may have passed you by, don’t worry: with the same attitude, there are other lucrative industries where willingness and desire can take you just as far as any of these sporting icons.

What would you do with these kinds of salaries? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 15 May 2019. It was written in collaboration with Melina Theodorou. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 2 October 2019.

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