In 2022, professional football is a rich industry, and the ten highest-paid players on the earth — who play for clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Liverpool — are raking in enormous sums in pay and sponsorships.
The earnings of the very best footballers have increased rapidly in recent years, especially since the arrival of multinational corporations, oligarchs, and petro nations as club owners.
Players have also profited from the game’s success by signing lucrative sponsorship deals, which can nearly equal their wage in some circumstances.
Here are the top 10 highest-earning football players in the world in 2022, according to Kurt Badenhausen* of Sportivo, an authority on the salaries of professional athletes. Note: following the Sportico numbers, US Dollars are used as the currency.
- Antoine Griezmann – $27.5m ($22m salary, $5.5m endorsements)
Griezmann is currently in a peculiar circumstance.
A condition in the deal that Atletico signed to take him back on loan from Barcelona states that if he plays more than 50 per cent of the available games throughout the entire two-year loan period, Atletico will be required to spend €40 million to sign him permanently. This rule defines playing a game as lasting at least 45 minutes.
As a result, Atletico is only using him for approximately thirty minutes plus stoppage time in their games this season, and they are attempting to renegotiate the provision with Barcelona.
It’s unfortunate for Griezmann, but he’ll still receive his $22 million paycheck and be fit for France’s world championship defence in Qatar, so we shouldn’t assume he’s weeping himself to sleep.
- Kevin De Bruyne – $29m ($25.5m salary, $3.5m endorsements)
De Bruyne has probably been the best player in the world’s most lucrative league over the past five seasons, and he plays for a club controlled by the Abu Dhabi Royal Family, so it would be strange if he weren’t in our top 10.
- Raheem Sterling – $29.4m ($21.4m salary, $8m endorsements)
While Sterling did not make as much as De Bruyne at Man City or his new club Chelsea, his marketability places him ahead of the Belgian.
Sterling has major endorsement deals with New Balance for his boots and Apple for all of his technology demands. Everybody reading this in the United Kingdom has undoubtedly seen the England international standing in a neon green tunnel, urging them to shave during a half-time commercial break.
- Andres Iniesta – $30m ($23m, $7m endorsements)
This one surprised us somewhat. But in Japan, the small man is popular.
Former Barcelona superstar Iniesta has been playing for Vissel Jobe since 2018 and signed a new contract with the club in 2021 that will keep him there until 2023. Given the offered compensation, it’s hardly surprising that he chose to remain.
Iniesta also has sponsorship deals with well-known Japanese companies such as Nissan, Asics, and Konami, as well as Generalife, a company whose website describes its mission as “providing you with your genetic information so that you can make better health and lifestyle choices for disease prevention.”
If you ask us, this sounds like a little Black Mirror.
Regardless, Iniesta’s immediate priority will not be advertising this variety of products but rather preserving his team’s J1 League status. Vissel Kobe is one point above the relegation zone with five games remaining at the time of writing.
- Eden Hazard – $31.1m ($28.6m salary, $2.5m endorsements)
It has not gone according to plan for Hazard at Real Madrid. The Belgian has scored just seven goals in three and a half seasons since his £103 million transfer to the Spanish capital. Last year’s Champions League final must have been especially frustrating to observe from the bench.
As they did with Gareth Bale, Madrid is forced to pay a high wage to a player who does not play all that often. However, they only have themselves to blame.
- Mohamed Salah – $39.5m ($24.5m salary, $15m endorsements)
In August of 2022, Salah signed a new three-year, £350,000-per-week contract with Liverpool, cementing his reputation as one of the world’s most skilled forwards.
Due to his popularity as a megastar in Egypt and the MENA area, Salah receives incredibly lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Adidas, Pepsi, Vodafone, and Uber.
Jurgen Klopp’s manager projected that the Egyptian monarch would be firing on all cylinders in 2022-23, following a slight dip in performance at the close of the previous campaign. This has not yet occurred, but we are confident it will, possibly after the World Cup break.
- Neymar – $91m ($56m salary, $35m endorsements)
Now we’ve reached the truly big leagues: the four football players whose earnings place them among the wealthiest athletes in the world, regardless of sport.
Neymar has the third-highest income in the world, also the third-highest wage at his club, PSG.
The Brazilian has released a ‘digital collection’ with NFTSTAR, whoever the hell they are, as have so many other professional footballers.
In addition, he invested almost $1 million in cryptocurrency in two Bored Ape NFTs in a single day in January 2022. That’s a lot of cryptocurrencies.
- . Lionel Messi – $110m ($62m salary, $48m endorsements)
Messi has previously topped the list of highest-paid athletes but currently ranks third.Nevertheless, with endorsement deals for watches, fizzy pop, telephones, sportswear, sports drinks, beer, video games, an oil state, and crisps – and this being World Cup Year to boot – we shouldn’t expect to see him at the Job Centre any time soon.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – $113m ($53m salary, $60m endorsements)
Ronaldo has more Instagram followers (481 million) than any other athlete, celebrity, or artist.
This enables him to sell anti-dandruff shampoo (and other products) worldwide, making him the footballer who earns the most in sponsorship deals, if not the most overall.
Is he now more of a celebrity than a footballer? The fact that he has started only one of Manchester United’s six Premier League games this season suggests he is headed in that direction.
- Kylian Mbappe – $125m ($105m, $20m endorsements)
Mbappe has knocked Messi and Ronaldo off the top rank among the highest-earning football players for the first time in more than a decade. Mbappe is Messi’s PSG teammate and a French child wonder.
Mbappe recently disclosed to the New York Times that French President Emmanuel Macron called him to persuade him against leaving PSG for Real Madrid this summer.
He told me, ‘I don’t want you to leave now. You are extremely crucial to the nation. When the president tells you anything, it matters.”
We presume that PSG offered a $105 million per year contract also played a role.