Who Are The Highest Earning Athletes in the World?

It is no secret that elite athletes command astronomical salaries and have almost unlimited earning potential from endorsement deals and sponsorships. Modern athletes have massive earning power, and while they have some way to match the $2.2 billion net worth of Michael Jordan, they have every chance of catching the basketball legend if they continue earning at their current rate.

Forbes regularly publishes several “rich lists” each year, including the highest-earning athletes. Last year, 2021, may have been hit by COVID-19 related restrictions, but it did not stop these athletes from pulling in cash sums mere mortals can only dream about.

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor topped the highest-earning athlete charts thanks to receiving an incredible $180 million in 2021. UFC star McGregor collected this gargantuan sum despite only having one fight last year. McGregor was the favorite with online sports betting companies to beat Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, but he broke his leg and could not continue. Still, he collected $22 million for the fight.

The famous Irishman reeled in an incredible $150 million from selling his majority stake in Proper No. Twelve whiskey to Proximo Spirits. Incredibly, McGregor earned $99 million in 2018, which placed him fourth on Forbes’ list.

Lionel Messi

Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi earned $130 million in 2021, making him the world’s highest-earning soccer star. Messi, who played for FC Barcelona at the time of the report, commanded $97 million from his salary alone and $33 million worth of endorsements.

A Spanish newspaper leaked the details of Messi’s Barcelona contract, and the world’s jaws dropped because it was the biggest contract in sports history. Messi was set to earn a maximum of €555,237,619 ($673,919,105) over four seasons if a set of conditions were met.

Messi’s main sponsors are Adidas and Pepsi, who he regularly features in commercials for.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Most soccer fans argue whether or not it is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo are the greatest players of all time. The argument will never be settled, but at least Messi can say he earns more than his Portuguese rival.

Ronaldo was the third-highest paid athlete globally in 2021, thanks to earning a cool $120 million. His salary accounted for $70 million of that sum, with an additional $50 million coming his way through the raft of endorsement deals and his long line of investments.

Ronaldo is the most followed person globally on social media, boasting more than 500 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His Instagram account is so popular that Ronaldo charges upwards of $1 million for a single sponsored post!

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys was the fourth-highest earning sports star in 2021 and the number one earner in the United States. Prescott’s endorsement deals accounted for $10 million of his earnings, with the other $97.5 million coming from his freshly-signed deal.

The quarterback penned a four-year, $160 million contract extension with the Cowboys. That new contract came with a massive $66 million signing bonus, which is excellent work if you can get it. Prescott holds more than a dozen records for the Cowboys and is seen as the player who can guide the Cowboys to some much overdue success.

The Best Of The Rest

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James banked $96.5 million in 2021, while soccer’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, saw his bank account swell by $95 million.

The rest of the top ten are tennis’ Roger Federer ($90 million), Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton ($82 million), NFL legend Tom Brady ($76 million), and basketball’s Kevin Durant ($75 million).

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