Lionel Messi, a global soccer icon, earned the number one spot for the first time on Forbes’ annual list of “The World’s Highest Paid Athletes.” The Argentinian player, who captains both Barcelona and Argentina’s national team made a total of $127 million – with $92 million generated from his salary and $35 million from endorsements. Among this year’s lineup, soccer stars lead the charge as Cristiano Ronaldo took second place with $109 million and Neymar Jr. in third place with $105 million.
For the past three decades, Forbes has annually tracked the highest earners in the booming sports industry. This year’s list includes plenty of sports icons such as basketball players Lebron James and Stephen Curry, American football players Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, tennis player Roger Federer, and boxer Canelo Alvarez. In basketball, salary capacities have almost doubled in the past five years, whereas tennis players continue to make four times as much profit from endorsements than they do from prize money.
For Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, consumer brands long for the chance to see the superstar don their sneakers, drink their energy drinks, or endorse their products on television. The five-time FIFA player of the year is sponsored by brands such as Gatorade, Huawei, Mastercard, and Pepsi, and has even secured a lifelong deal with Adidas. It’s safe to say that Messi won’t have to worry about what cleats he’s going to wear as he gears up for more legendary performances.