When it comes to evaluating the best players in the most beautiful game in the world, the emphasis invariably turns to a pair of competitors with household names and exclusive claims to be the first team-sport athletes in their careers to win $1 billion. It might be time for a third to make room.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo once again top this year’s Forbes list of top-paid soccer players, after Messi resolved a week-long contract drama to land the top spot with $126 million, nudging out Juventus’ Ronaldo, who comes in at No. 2 with $117 million. But soccer fans have a new interesting item in Kylian Mbappe, the $48 million Paris Saint-Germain striker who lands in the fourth position.
Mbappe is both the Paris club and the French national team’s rising hotshot, having accrued 103 goals in all the competitions since turning professional five years ago. He became the youngest player at the age of 19 to score a goal in the World Cup since the famous Pelé (who did it at the age of 17 in 1958) while helping the French team capture its second historic title. He’s ahead of the two leaders of the game when they were his age: France’s twice-time top goal scorer Ligue 1 has 12 more career goals than Messi had at the age of 21 and 76 more than Ronaldo.
Here are the Top 5 Most Earning Football Players In World-
- Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Until Messi joined in 2005, it took FC Barcelona 105 years to win 64 trophies. He’s led the team in the past 16 years to 34 trophy wins, a success that has landed his name among the greats of the sport — and won him $1 billion in earnings from pretax careers. This year, when he battled with the club about serving out the last year of his contract, he dragged the soccer world through weeks of cliffhanger drama. He stayed, and for that, he stands to earn $92 million, but Messi Watch 2021 is in full force, all eyes peeled for hints as to where he’s going to show up next.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus
With 457 million social media fans, Ronaldo is the most popular athlete on the planet. Per Hookit, he is also the most engaged, constantly showcasing his 0 percent body fat and poster-boy good looks for his branded wear, health, and wellness sponsors such as Herbalife and Clear shampoo, and his lifetime sponsor Nike, his CR7 lifestyle. In July, he posted a video of himself narrating an inspiring letter he wrote to Brazilian 10-year-old soccer prodigy Julia Rosado and her tearful joy as she got it, along with the new Flight Ball from the Swoosh. He is just the second man in history to score more than 100 foreign goals, after Iran’s Ali Daei.
- Neymar, Paris Saint Germain
The 28-year-old Brazilian striker, one of the game’s most polarised players for his antics on and off the field, quadrupled his salary and criticism when he traded in August 2017 to play alongside Messi in Barcelona for suiting up with Paris Saint-Germain. Between his record transfer fee of $263 million and his annual salary of $70 million, PSG is paying over $600 million to keep him in the French capital. Nike ended its association with Neymar this summer, enabling him to sign with Puma. He began the 2020-21 season of Ligue 1 with a red card for taking a swipe at the back of Alvaro Gonzalez’s head in Marseille, saying it was in reaction to racial violence.
- Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint Germain
For the second year in a row, Mbappe was named the winner of the Ligue 1 Golden Boot, which honors the player with the most goals for the league. His club was also repeated as league champion, with last season’s title declared on a points-per-match basis after play was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. He was forced to spend Ligue 1’s 2020-21 season opener in quarantine after he tested positive for Covid-19 but has remained asymptomatic, according to his lawyer.
- Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
In each of the last three seasons at Liverpool, Salah has hit the 20-goal mark in all competitions, helping to propel the club to its first Premier League title in 2019-2020 in 30 years. He has the highest winning percentage of any league player playing in over 100 matches. He scored a hat trick in Liverpool’s 2020-21 opening match. The 28-year-old teamed up with long-term sponsor Vodafone in February to become an ambassador for a UN initiative that brings refugees to his native Egypt with digital learning resources.