We all have our favourite sports and athletes, but in Nigeria, football (soccer) is unquestionably the most popular sport. The fans, the business, the money, the buzz, the hype, the discussions are only a few of what’s felt whenever the football season is on. Many people have been following the ongoing Champions League and if your team is still on, congratulations! Arsenal faces Napoli in the quarter-final today so… let’s just get to our list, shall we?
1. Lionel Messi
Naturally, everyone’s all-time favourite tops the list. The Argentinian plays for FC Barcelona and is the highest-paid soccer player, earning $111 million and taking home $84 million in salary and winnings, and another $27 million in endorsements. He is also the second-highest paid athlete in the world.
Messi has a lifetime deal with Adidas. Other deals include Gatorade, Pepsi, and Huawei. A Messi theme park, called Messi Experience Park, is scheduled to open in 2020 in Nanjing, China. Messi calls Castelldefels, Spain, home. He is married with three kids.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano is a Juventus forward and Forbes ranked him as the second-highest-paid soccer player and the third highest paid athlete overall in 2018. He is also some sort of football whisperer, garnering him and his club billions of fans across the world. He played for Real Madrid for 9 years before a record-breaking move to Juventus last year. The 33-year-old won four Champions league titles and a La Liga for Real Madrid. As at 2018, Ronaldo took home $61 million in salary and winnings from Real Madrid and $47 million in endorsements, for a whopping total of $108 million.
Ronaldo’s transfer fee to Juventus totaled $140 million. Ronaldo’s net annual salary will reportedly be $35 million. However, it also appears as though Ronaldo’s gross pay will amount to $64 million for the 2018-2019 season.
In 2017, Ronaldo scored 44 goals in 43 matches and was honored with a fifth Ballon d’Or. He also won his fifth Champions League title.
Ronaldo has a lifetime contract with Nike worth up to $1 billion. His other deals include Herbalife, EA Sports and American Tourister.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who is almost exclusively called by just his first name, is the third-highest-paid soccer player, making $90 million. Of that, he makes $73 million in salary and winnings and $17 million from endorsements. In August 2017, Neymar became the world’s most expensive player after signing a five-year 198 million pounds deal with Paris Saint-Germain.
The 27-year-old Brazilian forward works with global sponsors including Nike, Red Bull, and McDonald’s. He was the first soccer player to have his own custom Air Jordan sneakers made by the Swoosh.
4. Gareth Bale
Gareth Frank Bale is a Welsh professional footballer who plays as a winger for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Wales national team. He makes $34.6 million, clocking as the fourth highest-paid soccer player. He earns $28.6 million through salary and winnings, along with $6 million from endorsements.
Gareth Bale’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in 2013 was among the ten most expensive in the soccer club.
In May 2018, Bale scored two goals, including an iconic bicycle kick, to lead his team to a third consecutive Champions League title. In October 2016, he signed a contract extension with the club through June 2022, but the club is now looking to sell him. Bale has an endorsement deal with Adidas through 2020.
5. Paul Pogba
Paul Labile Pogba is a French professional footballer who plays for Premier League club Manchester United and the French national team. He is the fifth-highest-paid soccer player in the world, making $29.5 million, which consists of the $25 million he makes through salary and winnings and the $4.5 million he earns from endorsements.
Pogba operates primarily as a central midfielder, but can also be deployed as an attacking midfielder, defensive midfielder, and deep-lying playmaker. He has also had his share of historic goal moments, making him one of the most popular football players in the world.
His five-year contract pays an annual salary of at least $20 million. Pogba has a 10-year deal with Adidas.