Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have more or less dominated the highest-paid lists when it comes to world soccer over the years and to nobody’s surprise they still do in 2018. There are all sorts of things to take into consideration when trying to calculate a soccer player’s earnings as they include salary, prize money and endorsements.
This list deals with the top 15 paid soccer players on the planet and is based on their earnings over the past 12 months between July 2017 and July 2018. Players such as Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar Jr. reportedly have unique contracts as they’re paid after taxes. Therefore, it’s pretty hard to understand how Messi and Ronaldo have both been accused of cheating on their taxes.
Soccer contracts don’t mean much these days as they’re often ignored and renegotiated all too often so this list could easily change come January. In addition, Wayne Rooney took home $27 million over the past year and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was paid $21 million, but they haven’t made the list since their salaries will be cut drastically since they’ve joined MLS. Anyway, below are the 15 highest-paid soccer players in the world over the last 12 months.
15. Gerard Pique – Barcelona – $20.8 million
Barcelona’s Spanish defender Gerard Pique kicks off the list of the 15 highest-paid footballers. The centre-back is now 31 years old and actually got his feet wet as a professional over in England with Manchester United. He was mainly a reserve at Old Trafford though and made just 13 appearances with the Red Devils between 2004 and 2008 and spent time on loan with Zarazoga of Spain. It wasn’t until moving to Barcelona in 2008 that he began to mature as a player. Pique has helped Barca win a boat load of trophies and played 102 internationals with Spain. He took home $20.8 million over the past 12 months with $17.5 million coming in salary/winnings and $3.3 million from endorsements. He probably doesn’t need the money though since he’s been going out with Colombian singer Shakira since 2011.
14. Hulk – Shanghai SIPG – $22 million
Most fans know Givanildo Vieira de Sousa simply as Hulk. The Brazilian forward is 32 years old now and has played all over the world as a pro. He kicked things off in Japan for several years and then spent four years each in Portugal and Russia with Porto and Zenit Saint Petersburg respectively. He banged in 154 goals in 318 club games in those two countries before signing with Shanghai SIPG of the Chinese Super League in 2016. Although Hulk knows how to put the ball in the net, he’s played for Brazil just seven times since 2015 and not once in the past two years. That didn’t matter to Shanghai though as long as he can produce at club level they’re glad to pay him. Hulk raked in $22 million in the last year with a $21 million salary/winnings and another million in endorsements.
13. James Rodriguez – Bayern Munich – $22.1 million
James Rodriguez of Colombia was undoubtedly one of the best players of the 2014 World Cup and proved it by winning the Golden Boot for his six goals in five games. Things have gone slightly downhill for the 27-year-old since then even though he remains a fine player. Rodriguez was tempted by the cash and fame that came with joining Real Madrid after his World Cup performance and in retrospect it may have been a mistake. Rodriguez, an attacking midfielder/winger, scored 36 times in 110 outings with Madrid, but then found himself sitting on the bench. Real shipped him out to Bayern Munich in 2017 on a two-year loan and Rodriguez chipped in with eight goals in 39 matches for the German champions. He’s still a popular player with $5.3 million in endorsements and when added to his salary/winnings of $16.8, Rodriguez made $22.1 million in the last year.
12. Graziano Pelle – Shandong Luneng – $22.1 million
There’s evidently a ton of money to go around in the Chinese Super League as Graziano Pelle of Italy made $22.1 in the last 12 months via $21.1 million in salary/winnings and a cool million in endorsements. It may be hard to believe that a 33-year-old, average striker can make that much, but here’s the proof. Up to now, Pelle’s career consists of 400 games and he’s notched 137 goals for clubs in Holland, Italy, England and now China. He’s also played just 20 games for his country, but has managed a good return of nine goals. Pelle’s best two seasons came half a dozen years ago in the Dutch Eredivisie and he’s scored just 13 times in his first 43 matches since moving to Shandong Luneng in 2016. Sure, Pelle is a good player, but there’s no way he should be on this list.
11. Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain – $22.4 million
French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain is another club with an endless supply of funds. They paid Brazilian international defender Thiago Silva $21.4 million over the past 12 months and he also made another million dollars through endorsements. Silva should enjoy it while it lasts as he’s now 33 years old. He’ll be entering his seventh season with PSG in 2018/19 and he’s definitely not paid for his offensive skills as he’s chipped in with just 35 goals in 504 club contests during his career with another half dozen in 76 outings with Brazil. Silva’s paid for his excellent leadership skills, defensive ability, speed, positional ability and knowledge of the game. PSG is happy with the return for the money as Silva’s helped the club to five league titles, five league cups and four Coupe de France crowns.
10. Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain – $22.5 million
Although he won’t turn 20 years old until December 20th, 2018., French international forward Kylian Mbappe is already ranked number 10 on the highest-paid list. Paris Saint Germain handed over $21 million in salary/winnings to him last year while he pulled in another $1.5 million in endorsements. There’s no telling how much Mbappe may make in the future as he’s generally considered to be the best young player in the world right now. That was confirmed somewhat when he took home the Best Young Player Award at this year’s World Cup in Russia. He became just the second teenager to score in a World Cup Final, next to Pele, and also France’s youngest ever to notch a World Cup goal. The speedy Mbappe already has eight goals in 22 internationals as well as 52 more in 116 club outings.
9. Angel Di Maria – Paris Saint Germain – $22.6 million
The third straight PSG player on the list is 30-year-old Argentine international Angel Di Maria. The attacking midfielder/winger’s presence on this list may baffle Manchester United fans as he was a bust during his spell there in 2014/15 with just four goals in 32 games. PSG paid United about $65 million for his services in 2015 and Di Maria has paid them back with 52 goals in 135 matches. He’s also won two league titles along with three league cups and Coupe de France titles. They’re paying him a salary/winnings of $20.6 million and he’s a big enough name to land endorsement deals worth another $2 million. The former Benfica and Real Madrid player is a fine dribbler and also earns his money by setting up teammates with his superb passing, set-piece, and crossing skills.
8. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City – $23.5 million
Who can argue Sergio Aguero’s place on this list? The Argentine international striker has been one of the best scorers on the globe for several years now even though he doesn’t always get the playing time he deserves with Manchester City. The 30-year old is the club’s all-time scoring leader with 201 goals in his first 292 matches and has 325 of them in 582 club games. His 94th minute goal on the last day of the 2011/12 season won City the league title for the first time in 44 years and they’ve won two more since then. Aguero’s scoring skills have also helped the club win a trio of league cups. The two-time Man City Player of the Year won the Premier League Golden boot in 2014/15 and that’s why he was paid $17 million in salary/winnings last year and earned another $6.5 million from endorsements.
7. Luis Suarez – Barcelona – $26.9 million
While he’s known the world over for his biting skills, Uruguayan international striker Luis Suarez is also a heck of a soccer player. The 31-year-old is definitely one of the best poachers of his generation with 53 goals for his homeland as well as 373 more in 561 club contests. This includes a golden boot award in Holland, England and Spain and also leading all European leagues in scoring twice. Suarez is entering his fourth season with Barca and he’s been worth every penny the club’s paid him with 152 goals in 198 appearances. Suarez took home $26.9 million over the past year with salary/winnings of $19.9 million and a sizable $7 million in endorsement fees. Who knows, if he’d cut the diving out of his game Suarez may be worth even more to potential sponsors.
6. Oscar – Shanghai SIPG – $27.4 million
Perhaps one of the most forgotten men of world soccer is former Chelsea and Brazilian international Oscar. The attacking midfielder’s only 26 years old, but hasn’t played for Brazil since 2015. He made a name for himself in England while playing for the Stamford Bridge outfit from 2012 to the end of 2016. He scored 38 goals in 2013 appearances for the Blues and set up his teammates dozens of times. His silky smooth skills helped Chelsea win a pair of league titles along with a league cup and the Europa League. He was lured from Chelsea by Shanghai SIPG of the Chinese Super League after the club paid £60 for him. Oscar’s scored 17 times in 58 matches in China and his salary/winnings over the last year were $25.9 million with $1.5 million in endorsements for $27.4 million.
5. Paul Pogba – Manchester United – $29.5 million
There seems to be an on-again-off-again love affair between Manchester United and French international midfielder Paul Pogba as one week he wants to stay and the next week he wants to go. Pogba was with United from 2010 to 2012 and made just seven appearances with the club. Then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t too keen on him and Pogba was allowed to join Juventus on a free transfer. While in Turin, he scored 34 goals in 178 games, won the Serie A title in each of his four seasons and added two Coppa Italia’s and two Supercoppa Italiana’s. With egg on their face, Man United shelled out a then-world record £89.3 million in 2016 to reacquire Pogba. He signed a five-year deal and the 25-year-old was paid $29.5 million last year with $25 million in salary/winnings and $4.5 million in endorsements.
4. Gareth Bale – Real Madrid – $34.6 million
Welsh wizard Gareth Bale is still a young man at the age of 29 and still starring for Real Madrid. He’s well known for his speed, free-kick expertise, dribbling skills, long-distance shooting and highlight-reel goals. Who can forget his spectacular bicycle-kick goal against Liverpool in the 2017/18 European Champions League Final? When not injured, Bale’s still earning his money with the La Liga giants and took home $34.6 million over the past year. This included $28.6 million in salary/winnings along with $6 million from his numerous endorsements. Bale’s now entering his sixth year at Madrid and they certainly don’t mind paying him since he’s scored 88 goals in 190 games and helped them win four Champions League titles. The former Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton player has also won numerous other club trophies in Spain as well as several individual accolades.
3. Neymar Jr. – Paris Saint Germain – $90 million
Brazilian international forward Neymar Jr. of Paris Saint Germain may one day head this list, but for now he’ll have to settle for third place. That means he’ll have to get by on the $90 million deposited in his bank account over the past 12 months. PSG forked over $73 million in salary/winnings and he rounded things off with $17 million from multiple endorsement deals. The 26-year-old has 57 goals in 90 games with Brazil and 270 in 441 career club games. He’s entering his second campaign in France and with 29 goals in 32 contests appears to be earning his paycheck, especially since PSG won the league, league cup and Coupe de France in his one and only season so far. Technically, he’s making the second-highest salary in the world, but comes in behind Cristiano Ronaldo due to fewer endorsements.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus – $108 million
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was the highest-paid player in the world for several years, but has now apparently slipped to second. That’s nothing to sneeze at though considering he made $108 million over the last year. This came via a $61 million salary and winnings and $47 million in endorsements. The 33-year-old left Real Madrid this summer and transferred to Italian champions Juventus for a $131 million fee. He signed a four-year deal with the Serie A side for €100 million and could very well move back into the top-paid spot in the next year or two. Ronaldo won five Champions League titles with Madrid to help boost his earnings and he’s also on a lifetime deal with Nike which is reportedly worth more than $1 billion. Ronaldo’s face adorns all sorts of global brands and products and if he happens to go broke he could possibly ask each of his 320 million social media followers to donate a dollar to help him out.
1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona – $111 million
It took awhile, but Argentina and Barcelona legend Lionel Messi has finally overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s highest paid footballer, at least for the time being. Messi’s total take-home pay over the last year was an astonishing $111 as the goal scoring machine raked in $84 million in salary/winnings. Of course, it also helps that the 31-year-old is generally considered to be one of the top two players on the planet and this means corporations are lining up to sign him to endorsement deals. Messi’s are worth quite a bit as he was paid $27 million to lend his name to brands such as Adidas, Pepsi, Gatorade and Huawei. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has committed himself to Barcelona until the end of the 2020/21 season with the contact stating that he’s paid a minimum of $80 million. Also, the Messi Experience Theme Park is set to open its doors in Nanjing, China in 2020 so he’ll be raking in even more cash.