The Highest Paid Soccer Player A Look at the World’s Top Earning Athletes
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The Highest Paid Soccer Player A Look at the World’s Top Earning Athletes

Soccer, or football as it is known in many parts of the world, is the most popular sport on the planet. With billions of fans worldwide, it comes as no surprise that soccer players are some of the highest paid athletes in the world. In fact, according to Forbes, 9 out of the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world in 2021 were soccer players.

One of these top earning soccer players is none other than Lionel Messi, who topped the list with a whopping $130 million in earnings. But how exactly do these players earn such staggering amounts of money? In this article, we will take a deep dive into the world of soccer and explore the factors that contribute to the high salaries of its players.

The Evolution of Soccer Salaries

The rise of soccer as a global phenomenon can be attributed to the evolution of technology and media. With the advent of television and the internet, the popularity of the sport has spread far and wide, reaching fans in every corner of the world. This increased exposure has also led to an increase in revenue for the sport, which has translated into higher salaries for players.

In the early days of professional soccer, players were not nearly as well-compensated as they are today. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1990s that players started earning six-figure salaries. And it wasn’t until the 2000s that salaries reached the seven-figure mark.

Today, the average salary for a professional soccer player is around $60,000-70,000 per year. However, this number varies greatly depending on the level of play, with top-tier players earning millions of dollars annually.

So what exactly contributes to these sky-high salaries? Let’s take a closer look at the key factors.

TV Rights and Sponsorship Deals

Television rights and sponsorship deals are major contributors to the high salaries of soccer players. As mentioned earlier, the widespread popularity of the sport has led to lucrative broadcasting deals all over the world. In fact, the English Premier League’s current TV deal is worth over $8 billion.

These TV deals provide a significant amount of revenue for the clubs, which in turn allows them to pay higher salaries to their players. Additionally, sponsorship deals with major brands such as Adidas, Nike, and Puma also contribute significantly to player earnings. Players who have established themselves as top performers on the pitch are often sought after by these companies to endorse their products, which can bring in millions of dollars in additional income.

Player Transfer Fees

Another major contributor to the high salaries of soccer players is the transfer fees paid by clubs when signing new players. When a player is under contract with a club, that club essentially “owns” the player and has the right to sell or transfer them to another club for a fee. These transfer fees can reach astronomical amounts, with some players being bought for hundreds of millions of dollars.

For example, in 2017, Brazilian superstar Neymar was transferred from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a record-breaking fee of $263 million. This not only made him the most expensive player in history but also greatly increased his yearly salary to a reported $71 million.

International Tournaments

International tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship also play a significant role in the earning potential of soccer players. These tournaments not only provide players with the opportunity to represent their countries but also allow them to showcase their skills on a global stage.

Additionally, national teams often offer large bonuses to players for participating in these tournaments, with the winning team receiving an even larger sum. For example, France’s victorious team in the 2018 World Cup each received a bonus of approximately $395,000.

The Top Earning Soccer Players in 2021

Now that we have a better understanding of the factors that contribute to soccer players’ salaries, let’s take a look at the top earning players in 2021.

1. Lionel Messi – $130 million

As mentioned earlier, Lionel Messi topped Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes in 2021. The Argentinian superstar not only earns a hefty salary from his club, Paris Saint-Germain, but also has lucrative endorsement deals with brands such as Adidas and Pepsi.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo – $120 million

Cristiano Ronaldo is another familiar name on this list. The Portuguese forward currently plays for Juventus in Italy’s Serie A and is also a global ambassador for Nike. In addition to his impressive salary, Ronaldo also has a successful line of CR7 branded products.

3. Neymar Jr. – $95 million

Despite being one of the most expensive players in history, Neymar Jr.’s earnings are largely due to his sponsorship deals with brands like Nike, Red Bull, and Puma. The Brazilian winger also has his own line of football boots, which adds to his already huge income.

4. Kylian Mbappé – $43 million

At just 22 years old, French forward Kylian Mbappé is already one of the highest-earning soccer players in the world. He currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and has endorsement deals with major brands such as Adidas, Hublot, and EA Sports.

5. Mohamed Salah – $37 million

Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah has quickly risen to become one of the top players in the English Premier League. In addition to his salary at Liverpool, Salah also has sponsorship deals with Adidas, DHL, and Uber.

6. Paul Pogba – $34 million

French midfielder Paul Pogba, who currently plays for Manchester United, has a lucrative sponsorship deal with Adidas. He also has his own brand of clothing and often collaborates with major fashion labels.

7. Antoine Griezmann – $33 million

Another French player on the list, Antoine Griezmann earns a significant portion of his income from sponsorship deals with Puma and Head & Shoulders. He also has his own line of clothing and footwear.

8. Robert Lewandowski – $29 million

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is not only one of the highest-paid soccer players but also the top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues in the 2020-2021 season. His salary at Bayern Munich is complemented by his endorsement deals with Nike and EA Sports.

9. Gareth Bale – $29 million

Despite struggling with injuries in recent years, Welsh winger Gareth Bale still manages to earn a substantial income from his salary at Real Madrid and endorsement deals with Adidas and BT Sport.

10. David De Gea – $27 million

Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea rounds out the top 10 highest-paid soccer players. His salary at Manchester United is supplemented by his sponsorship deals with Adidas and Pepsi.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Soccer Salaries

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had a significant impact on the world of sports, and soccer was no exception. The shutdown of leagues and tournaments led to a decrease in revenue for clubs, which, in turn, affected player salaries.

According to Forbes, the total earnings of the highest-paid soccer players dropped by 17% in 2020 compared to the previous year. This was due to pay cuts, reduced bonuses, and the postponement of some tournaments.

However, as the world slowly starts to recover from the pandemic, we can expect to see soccer players’ salaries back on the rise. With fans returning to stadiums and revenue streams opening up again, it is only a matter of time before these players start earning staggering amounts once more.

The Controversy Surrounding High Soccer Salaries

The topic of high soccer salaries has sparked much debate over the years. Some argue that players deserve every penny they earn due to their hard work, dedication, and talent on the pitch. Others argue that these salaries are excessive and contribute to the ever-growing wage gap in society.

However, it is important to note that soccer players’ salaries are not just a reflection of their talent, but also the result of market forces. As mentioned earlier, the widespread popularity of the sport has led to increased revenue for clubs, which allows them to pay higher salaries to their players.

Furthermore, these players’ salaries also contribute significantly to the economy by creating jobs and generating income for the communities in which they play. In fact, according to a study commissioned by the European Club Association, the top 20 European clubs create a total of 98,000 jobs and generate €7.6 billion in tax revenue.


The world of soccer is a multi-billion dollar industry, with players at its center earning staggering amounts of money. From TV rights and sponsorship deals to international tournaments and player transfer fees, there are many factors that contribute to the high salaries of soccer players.

While the controversy surrounding these high salaries may continue, one thing is for sure – as long as the sport remains popular worldwide and generates significant revenue, we can expect to see soccer players continue to earn large sums of money for their talents on the pitch.

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