Top 10 Richest Soccer Players in the World 2021

Ranked

Anyone familiar with soccer knows that money is a huge part of the game nowadays. Players are regularly transferred for fees approaching $100 million and enjoy salaries of which most of us could only dream.

Forbes magazine annually publishes a list of the overall highest-paid athletes as well as the highest-paid soccer players in the world. In addition to their hefty salaries, soccer players regularly endorse famous international brands and can be spotted promoting many of the biggest companies in the world of sport and beyond.

Our list looks at the combined income of both salary and endorsements. So, let’s take a look at the ten highest-paid soccer players in the world in 2021.

10) Eden Hazard — $29 Million

One of the best players of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’, Eden Hazard signed with Real Madrid in 2019 for $118 million where he currently earns $26 million a year. Hazard’s time at Real Madrid has been marred by injuries and he is currently linked with a return to his former English Premier League club, Chelsea.

In addition to his salary, Hazard has several endorsements in his native Belgium. He is regularly featured in advertising campaigns for McDonald’s, Nissan, and Nike.

9) Gareth Bale — $32 Million

The talismanic captain of the Welsh national team, Gareth Bale became the most expensive soccer player in the world in 2013 when he moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for $130 million. Although Bale has been successful in Madrid, amassing four Champions League winner’s medals, he has been criticized due to his frequent injuries and seeming preference for the golf course over the soccer field.

Indeed, Bale’s love of golf is reflected in his endorsements. He endorses golf equipment company TaylorMade, which seems a perfect fit for him!

8) Paul Pogba — $34 Million

A FIFA World Cup winner, the French midfielder broke the world transfer record in 2016 when he moved to Manchester United from Italian giants Juventus for $118 million (only four years after leaving United for Juventus on a free transfer). Although Pogba’s second spell at United has had its ups and downs, including a very public feud with former United manager José Mourinho, his form has picked up under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Pogba enjoys a lucrative ten-year sponsorship deal with Adidas worth an overall $45 million.

7) Andrés Iniesta — $35 Million

It might be surprising to see Iniesta on this list considering he left Barcelona back in 2018. Iniesta is undoubtedly one of the best soccer players ever and was integral to the success of both Barcelona and the Spanish national team. In 2018, after 22 years at Barcelona, Iniesta moved to Vissel Kobe in Japan’s J1 League. Iniesta commands a $31 million annual salary in Japan, almost five times the salary earned by previous highest earners Diego Forlán and Lukas Podolski.

Vissel Kobe is owned by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, who were also the previous primary shirt sponsor for Barcelona, thus allowing for the relatively high salary for Iniesta in the top flight of Japanese soccer.

6) Robert Lewandowski — $35 Million

The greatest striker in soccer today, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is an unstoppable goal-scoring juggernaut. The Polish national team’s captain has scored over 40 goals in the last six seasons and looks to continue that trend this year with the Bavarian giants. Although he has been linked with a move away from Germany, Lewandowski has thus far remained with Bayern and aided their domination of the German Bundesliga and success in the Champions League.

Lewandowski is incredibly popular in Poland where he endorses many major Polish and international brands. Lewandowski has endorsement deals with Head & Shoulders, Nike, Coca Cola, and Huawei (for whom he recently filmed a commercial alongside Gal Gadot). He also recently opened a sports bar and restaurant, Nines, in his hometown of Warsaw.

5) Mohamed Salah — $41 Million

Beloved in Liverpool, the Egyptian national team captain Mohamed Salah is known for his goal-scoring prowess as well as his philanthropic efforts to alleviate poverty in Egypt. After signing for Liverpool in 2017 for $48 million, Salah made an immediate impact by scoring 44 goals in his first season with the Reds. Salah has subsequently helped Liverpool to their first English Premier League in thirty years and a sixth Champion League title.

Mohamed Salah is sought after for endorsement deals both in Egypt as well as around the world. Salah is the face of Vodafone in Egypt and has international sponsorship deals with Adidas and ExxonMobil (see his rap for the oil and gas company below).

4) Kylian Mbappé — $43 Million

The most expensive teenager in world soccer history, Mbappé signed for Paris Saint-Germain from AS Monaco for $210 million in 2018. Mbappé has dominated in the French Ligue 1, scoring 42 goals despite PSG failing to win the title last season. Mbappé has enjoyed greater success on the international stage as he has helped France lift the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2021 UEFA Nations League titles. This season could be Mbappé’s last in Paris as he rejected a contract extension which would have greatly increased his salary. Perhaps a move to Real Madrid is in his future?

Mbappé is already attracting major sponsorship deals despite his young age. He has a long-standing deal with Nike and is the face of EA Sports’ FIFA series, gracing the cover of both FIFA 21 and 22.

3) Neymar Jr. — $95 Million

The most expensive soccer player of all time, Neymar Jr. left Barcelona in 2017 for $263 million to move to Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar has helped PSG to success in the French Ligue 1 alongside teammates such as Kylian Mbappé, but European success continues to elude Paris. PSG were defeated by Bayern Munich in the 2020 Champion League final, but perhaps the addition of our next player will bring the famous trophy back to Paris.

After his sponsorship deal with Adidas finished in 2020, Neymar now has an exclusive deal worth $25 million annually with Puma. Through PSG’s connections to Qatar, Neymar is also closely associated with Qatar Airways. Neymar is also a cultural ambassador for poker site, Pokerstars, and is even available as a skin for gaming phenomenon, Fortnite.

2) Lionel Messi — $110 Million

Messi is without a doubt one of the greatest, if not the greatest, soccer player of all time. Most of us thought that Messi would be at Barcelona for life after leading the Catalan giants to ten La Liga and four Champions League titles. This summer, however, Messi departed his home of over twenty years to move North to Paris Saint-Germain. Although it’s reported that he took a salary cut to move to France, Messi remains near the top of our list.

Messi is one of the most sought-after athletes in the world of endorsements. Adidas has been Messi’s primary sponsor since 2006 when he switched from Nike. Messi has also featured in advertising campaigns for Turkish Airlines, Pepsi, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gillette. He recently signed a deal to act as an ambassador for Hard Rock Café, the first athlete to do so.

1) Cristiano Ronaldo — $125 Million

The superlatives I mentioned with regards to Lionel Messi could as easily be applied to Cristiano Ronaldo. One of the best soccer players of all time, the captain of the Portuguese national team has won trophy after trophy at some of the best teams in Europe. Ronaldo has won the Champions League with both Manchester United and Real Madrid and recently returned to Old Trafford after three seasons with Juventus in Italy. Ronaldo is the highest-paid athlete in the English Premier League today and United fans will be hoping he leads them to silverware this season.

In addition to his salary, Ronaldo has lucrative and long-standing sponsorship deals with Nike and Herbalife. Ronaldo is amongst the elite earners in sports as he is only the third athlete to earn $1 billion during their active career, after Tiger Woods and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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