Of the 50 highest paid athletes in the world in 2022, the highest number came from the National Football League (NFL). However, sitting at the very top of the list was soccer superstar Lionel Messi, who amassed on- and off-field earnings of 130 million U.S. dollars in 2021/22.
Messi vs. Ronaldo continues
Despite the ongoing debate among fans and in the media about who is the better soccer player between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, it is the latter that leads the way in terms of earnings. As well as winning an incredible amount of domestic trophies, Lionel Messi is winning off the pitch, too, thanks to a lifetime sponsorship deal with Adidas, as well as numerous endorsements with the likes of Pepsi, Lay's, and Budweiser. Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, who boasts five Champions League titles to his name, had off-field earnings on 60 million U.S. dollars in 2022, thanks to a lifetime deal with Nike, and endorsements with DAZN, Electronic Arts, and Tag Heuer. However, one title that Ronaldo can claim over Messi is that of most followed athlete on Instagram. The Portuguese star has over 330 million followers on the social media site, while Lionel Messi has a "mere" 256 million.
Where are all the women?
One notable absence in the list of highest paid athletes is any female athletes. In fact, the highest paid female athletes took home a fraction of the earnings of their male counterparts. Tennis star Naomi Osaka topped the list of sportswomen, having taken home 1.2 million U.S. dollars in prize money and a further 58 million U.S. dollars in endorsements. Osaka consistently ranks in the top 10 of the WTA's ranking of female tennis players worldwide and her endorsements include companies such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Mastercard.
Highest paid athletes worldwide in 2021/22, by earnings from salary and endorsements
(in million U.S. dollars)
Salary includes earnings derived from play on the field, court, track, ring or course, including any prize money won and bonuses.
Endorsements includes any money made off-field. It includes appearance fees, sponsorships and any other income made while not directly engaging in sport.
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Forbes. (May 11, 2022). Highest paid athletes worldwide in 2021/22, by earnings from salary and endorsements (in million U.S. dollars) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved August 07, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/250295/highest-paid-athletes-worldwide/
Forbes. "Highest paid athletes worldwide in 2021/22, by earnings from salary and endorsements (in million U.S. dollars)." Chart. May 11, 2022. Statista. Accessed August 07, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/250295/highest-paid-athletes-worldwide/
Forbes. (2022). Highest paid athletes worldwide in 2021/22, by earnings from salary and endorsements (in million U.S. dollars). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: August 07, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/250295/highest-paid-athletes-worldwide/
Forbes. "Highest Paid Athletes Worldwide in 2021/22, by Earnings from Salary and Endorsements (in Million U.S. Dollars)." Statista, Statista Inc., 11 May 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/250295/highest-paid-athletes-worldwide/
Forbes, Highest paid athletes worldwide in 2021/22, by earnings from salary and endorsements (in million U.S. dollars) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/250295/highest-paid-athletes-worldwide/ (last visited August 07, 2022)