Ronaldo has become the world’s highest-paid athlete

StarAvis Desk
StarAvis Desk
5 Min Read
Ronaldo moved to Al Nassr in January 2023.

Lionel Messi, the forward for PSG, ranked second on the Forbes list, with his club teammate and France captain Kylian Mbappe coming in third.

Forbes magazine has reported that Cristiano Ronaldo has regained his title as the world’s highest-paid athlete for the first time since 2017. This was due to his move to Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, which resulted in his annual playing salary almost doubling. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) players Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe took second and third place respectively in the rankings.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who can be seen here playing for the Riyadh All-Star XI, has experienced an increase in his income since relocating to Saudi Arabia.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who can be seen here playing for the Riyadh All-Star XI, has experienced an increase in his income since relocating to Saudi Arabia.

Ronaldo, who left Manchester United last year and signed a deal with the Saudi football club until 2025, earned $136m, with Forbes estimating that his annual playing salary had increased to around $75m.

Media reports suggest that Ronaldo’s contract is worth over 200 million euros ($220m).

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Lionel Messi, the 35-year-old forward for PSG, came in second on the list with a combined income of $130m, while his club teammate and captain of the French national team, Kylian Mbappe, who is the youngest athlete on the list at 24, earned $120m, putting him in third place.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappe are the world's highest paid athletes in 2023

It’s worth noting that PSG is owned by Qatar Sports Investments.

The top five highest-paid athletes also included LeBron James, a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers and NBA legend, who earned $119.5m, and Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez, who earned $110m.

In addition, last year saw the emergence of LIV Golf, a breakaway tour that has attracted some of the top players from the United States-based PGA Tour with enormous sums of money. Two LIV Golfers even made it into the top 10 highest-paid athletes.

According to Forbes, eight athletes earned more than $100 million in the past year, with Cristiano Ronaldo topping the list with an estimated income of $136 million, derived from a combination of playing salary and endorsements. Kylian Mbappé and Dustin Johnson both made their debut in the top 10, with estimated earnings of $120 million and $107 million respectively.

This year’s top earners include five athletes who have earned more than $100 million for the first time: Mbappé, Johnson, boxer Canelo Álvarez, golfer Phil Mickelson, and NBA player Stephen Curry. Tennis star Roger Federer narrowly missed the $100 million mark, with an estimated income of $95.1 million, mostly from off-court ventures.

Kevin Durant rounds out the top 10 with estimated earnings of $89.1 million, representing a 10% increase from the previous year. The inclusion of Mickelson and Johnson in the top 10 was a surprise, given their recent performance and age, with Mickelson ranked 31st on last year’s list.

Forbes uses a combination of on-field earnings, including prize money, bonuses, and salaries, and off-field earnings, such as endorsements, appearance fees, and licensing income, to calculate its annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

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Dustin Johnson, a former world number one, made the biggest jump in earnings after switching to LIV Golf, coming in sixth place with $107m. He had not even made the top 50 list in 2022. Johnson was joined on the Forbes list by fellow LIV Golfer Phil Mickelson, who came in seventh place with $106m.

The remaining two basketball players on the list are four-time NBA champion Stephen Curry, who earned $100.4m, and Kevin Durant from the Phoenix Suns, who earned $89.1m.

Retired tennis player Roger Federer is also on the list, coming in at number nine with earnings of $95.1m.

According to Forbes, the on-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries, and bonuses earned by the athletes in the last 12 months. Off-field earnings, on the other hand, are estimated to include sponsorship deals, appearance fees, licensing income, and cash returns from the athletes’ business ventures.

World’s top 10 highest paid athletes 2023

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, football: US$136m

2. Lionel Messi, football: US$130m

3. Kylian Mbappe, football: US$120m

4. LeBron James, basketball: US$119.5m

5. Canelo Alvarez, boxing: US$110m

6. Dustin Johnson, golf: US$107m

7. Phil Mickelson, golf: US$106m

8. Stephen Curry, basketball: US$100.4m

9. Roger Federer, tennis: US$95.1m

10. Kevin Durant, basketball: US$89.1m


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