In 2023, Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as the highest-paid footballer globally, thanks to a staggering £214 million salary, a feat that secured his top spot on the Forbes list. Ronaldo’s transfer to Al-Nassr in the previous year marked the beginning of a trend of high-profile players departing European football for Saudi Arabian football.
The 38-year-old Portuguese forward, leading the Saudi Pro League both as a top scorer and assist provider , reportedly earns more than double the income of Kylian Mbappe, the highest-paid player in 2022.
Breakdown of Ronaldo’s income
Forbes estimates Ronaldo’s income at approximately £164 million from his club performance and an additional £49 million from various off-field ventures. He featured in promotional videos for the Saudi National Day and the Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou bout in Riyadh. Notably, Ronaldo was one of the four Saudi Pro League stars in the top 10 highest-paid footballers, along with Neymar, Karim Benzema, and Sadio Mane, securing positions in third, fifth, and eighth, respectively.
Messi in second position
Lionel Messi secured the second spot on the list after accepting Inter Miami’s proposal after denying billion dollar offer from Saudi Club Al Hilal , resulting in earnings of £111 million, which is over £100 million less than his long-time rival Ronaldo. Neymar followed closely behind with £92 million, slightly edging out his former teammate and last year’s number one, Mbappe.
In the sixth position, the Premier League’s highest-earner, Erling Haaland, had an estimated income of £48 million. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s iconic player, reportedly made £44 million from both playing and endorsement activities.
Manchester City captain Kevin de Bruyne, despite being sidelined due to injury, secured a lucrative endorsement deal with McDonald’s in Belgium in March, pushing him into ninth place with an estimated £32 million in earnings.
Harry Kane in top 10
Rounding out the top 10 was Harry Kane, taking home £30 million. The newly-signed Bayern Munich star inked a multi-year partnership with Fanatics, becoming the first British athlete to exclusively partner with the company’s autographs and memorabilia division.