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Cristiano Ronaldo

The Highest-Paid Athletes in the World in 2022

The financial gravy train in sports shows no signs of slowing down, with the top athletes in the world continuing to bank staggering amounts of cash each year.

The top 100 athletes collectively earned around $4.5 billion in salary, prize money and endorsements over the last 12 months.

Soccer star Lionel Messi is top of the pile, raking in $130 million over the past year. LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Stephen Curry complete the top five.

Here are the current top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world (including on-field and off-field earnings):

Top 50 Highest-Paid Athletes in the World 2022

1. Lionel Messi – Soccer – $130m

2. LeBron James – Basketball – $121.2m

3. Cristiano Ronaldo – Soccer – $115m

4. Neymar – Soccer – $95m

5. Stephen Curry – Basketball – $92.8m

6. Kevin Durant – Basketball – $92.1m

7. Roger Federer – Tennis – $90.7m

8. Canelo Alvarez – Boxing – $90m

9. Tom Brady – American Football – $83.9m

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Basketball – $80.9m

11. James Harden – Basketball – $76m     

12. Tiger Woods – Golf – $73.5m

13. Matthew Stafford – American Football – $73.3m         

14. Russell Westbrook – Basketball – $69.8m

15. Tyson Fury – Boxing – $69m

16. Josh Allen – American Football – $66.5m         

17. Deshaun Watson – American Football – $56m              

18. Klay Thompson – Basketball – $54.2m

19. Lewis Hamilton – Motorsports – $54m             

20. Naomi Osaka – Tennis – $53.2m

21. Aaron Rodgers – American Football – $53m    

22. Conor McGregor – Mixed Martial Arts – $52m              

23. Damian Lillard – Basketball – $51.4m

24. Mike Trout – Baseball – $49.5m          

25. Kylian Mbappe – Soccer – $48.8m      

26. Patrick Mahomes – American Football – $48.6m

27. Kirk Cousins – American Football – $48.5m

28. Kyrie Irving – Basketball – $44.9m

29. Paul George – Basketball – $44m        

30. Gareth Bale – Soccer – $43m

30. Max Verstappen – Motorsports – $43m           

32. Anthony Davis – Basketball – $41.8m

33. Kawhi Leonard – Basketball – $41m

33. Marshon Lattimore – American Football – $41m          

35. Amari Cooper – American Football – $40.8m

36. Jimmy Butler – Basketball – $40.5m

37. John Wall – Basketball – $40.4m

38. Ryan Ramczyk – American Football – $38.7m

39. Rory McIlroy – Golf – $38.4m

40. Trevor Bauer – Baseball – $38.2m

41. Eden Hazard – Soccer – $37.9m           

42. Von Miller – American Football – $37.8m        

43. T.J. Watt – American Football – $37.7m           

44. Phil Mickelson – Golf – $37.1m

45. Gerrit Cole   -Baseball – $37m             

=46. Mike Williams – American Football – $36.8m              

=46. Chris Godwin – American Football – $36.8m

48. Stefon Diggs – American Football – $36.2m    

49. Chris Paul – Basketball – $35.8m

50. Devin Booker – Basketball – $35.5m

NBA Stars Top the Earnings Charts

Although soccer players dominate the top five in the earnings list, basketball is the place to be when it comes to raking in the cash.

NBA stars fill 36 of the 100 places, with American Football (25), soccer (13) and baseball (12) the only other sports to hit double figures.

James, Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo all feature in the top 10, while another three NBA players sit in the top 20.

Canelo Alvarez’s $85 annual salary/winnings were the highest of any athlete, with many others in the list garnering a greater proportion of their income from off-field activities.

James Rules the Roost for Endorsements

While James’ $41.2 on-court earnings are not to be sniffed at, they account for one-third of his total annual income.

In addition to his lucrative contract with Nike, the Los Angeles Lakers star has deals with Walmart, GMC, AT&T, PepsiCo and many more.

With more than 198 million followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, the 37-year-old has a captive audience that is a marketer’s dream.

James has several other outside interests including with Fenway Sports Group, Blaze and SpringHill Entertainment, all of which should keep his bank manager happy over the coming years.

Soccer Trio Keep the Cash Tills Ringing

Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar have been at the top of the pile in soccer earnings for some time now, and they continue to dominate the landscape in the sport.

A move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain has kept Messi in clover, with the Argentinian earning $130m over the past 12 months.

Ronaldo is currently $15m behind his long-time rival, although his growing endorsement portfolio and business interests will fire him past Messi when they finish playing.

While Neymar’s $95m earnings will keep his bank manager happy, he still lags a little way behind the established ‘Big Two’.

Team Sports Outstrip Solo Pursuits

Team sports have traditionally led the way in the earnings stakes and that unquestionably remains the case in 2022.

Of the top 100 high earners, just 13 athletes are from solo sports. Golf (4) provides the most, with Tiger Woods ($73.5) just missing out on the top 10.

Boxing (3), tennis (3), motorsports (2) and mixed martial arts (1) are the other non-team sports to feature in the top 100.

Interestingly, tennis star Roger Federer is seventh on the list having topped up his $700,000 salary/winnings with $90m in endorsements.

Who Pays the Big Money?

Eight teams had three athletes qualify for the top 100. Basketball, American Football, soccer and baseball were the sports in question.

Paris Saint-Germain’s oil money has given them huge spending power in soccer, although their whopping outlay is yet to deliver success in the Champions League.

In the NBA, the Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers each have a trio of players in the top 100 earners.

Buffalo Bills (American Football) and Los Angeles Dodgers (baseball) round off the octet of top clubs who have been splashing the cash in the past 12 months.

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