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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo leads Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in world’s richest athletes list

The influx of Middle Eastern funds into the fields of golf and soccer has resulted in athletes earning more money than ever before.

Ten sports stars have raked in an estimated $1.1 billion within a year, surpassing the previous all-time record established in 2018.

According to Forbes, former Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo switched to Saudi Arabia in January, nearly doubling his wages to approximately $75 million.

When it comes to the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2023, he is at the forefront with estimated total earnings of $136m, having earned $46m from his salary and bonuses as a player.

Ronaldo makes significant money outside the pitch, hauling an additional $90m from various income sources such as endorsements, public appearances, licensing agreements, and other business ventures.

As the third highest earner in Ligue 1 behind Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, Ronaldo’s arch-nemesis Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain lands in second with $130m.

In addition to his $65m-a-year salary at the Parc des Princes, he boasts several lucrative off-the-field streams of revenue, including a $20m-a-year deal with a blockchain-based fan platform Socios.

Despite earning almost double Messi’s wages at PSG, the highest-paid European player, Mbappe, lags behind his club teammate by a tiny margin, as he has made around $120m in 2023.

Fourth on the list is the NBA powerhouse LeBron James, who incidentally became the first athlete to be certified a billionaire by Forbes last June, courtesy of his outstanding endorsement portfolio.

Unlike the Los Angeles Lakers talisman, boxing champion Canelo Alvarez, fifth on this list, makes most of his money in the ring, with 90% of his $100m income in 2023 coming from his blockbuster fights.

Perhaps surprisingly, golf stars Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are sixth and seventh, leaving NBA sharpshooter Steph Curry and tennis icon Roger Federer in their wake.

Curry’s fellow NBA rival Kevin Durant occupies the final spot in the top ten despite falling just shy of the $100m milestone, having collected $89.1m.

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