Lionel Messi has become the second football billionaire after Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentine is the highest earning player in 2020 according to Forbe’s latest ranking of footballers’ earnings. He is set to earn $126 million at the end year, putting Juventus’ Ronaldo at the second place with $117 million.
Messi came first with a $92 million salary and $34 million in endorsement deals that increased his earnings to $1 billion before tax. The Barcelona captain had a lot of controversy surrounding his contract at the end of the season following his request to leave the club. His forced decision to stay at his childhood club means he will become richer at the end of the year.
The unsettling situation however casts further speculation about Messi’s future at the end of the current season. With Man City on the sideline watching, and Barcelona keen on keeping him, one can only wait and see.
Four others who made the top five ranking
Cristiano Ronaldo is trailing Messi with $117 million in total earnings; $70 million earned from salary and $47 million earned from endorsements. His physique has not only made him the most famous athlete in the world, with over 457 million followers across social media, it has also made him a top shot for brands. Nike, Herbalife and Clear Shampoo are all on his list sponsors, adding to the wealth from his CR7 clothing brands. Ronaldo was the first footballer to make a billionaire.
Neymar is in the third place with $96 million earning for the year 2020. The Paris Saint Germain playmaker is switching to Puma after his 78 million pounds with Nike came to an end. He has, however, earned $18 million from endorsements before he made the switch. The Brazilian became the most expensive transfer in the football market when he moved from Barcelona to PSG in 2017, at a record $263 million.
Kylian Mbappe sprang to the fourth place as a surprise with $42 million earning; $28 million from salary and $14 million from endorsement. At his age, the French international is setting a pace faster than those of Messi and Ronaldo. At 19, Mbappe was the second youngest player to score in a world cup, following Brazilian legend Pele who registered his first world cup goal in 1958 at the age of 17.
Forbes noted that the World Cup winner is already ahead of the game’s leaders when they were his age. With 103 goals, Mbappe has 12 more career goals than Messi and 76 more than Ronaldo had at 21. The youngster has become a darling to Hublot and Nike, and was announced by EA Sports as cover player for FIFA 21, making him the youngest player to appear solo on the game’s cover.
With this uprising record, the Paris Saint Germain wonder-kid is set to usurp the leaders of the earning table. The Parisian became the most expensive teenager when he was signed by the Paris side from Monaco at $215 million in 2017, for a contract that will fetch him $28 million this season.
Moreover, Mbappe is reportedly telling PSG he wants to leave, and rumor has it his destination will be Real Madrid, which will mean more than tripled pay for him. Though his earning is expected to double with a new contract offer from PSG, a move to the Spanish side will make him one of the highest paid athletes in the world.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah grabbed the 5th position on the table with $37 million in earnings; $24 million in salary and $13 million in endorsements. He has a sponsorship deal with Vodafone that extends to the UN ambassadorial program aimed at providing digital learning tools to refugees in his country home Egypt.
Salah has over time established himself in Liverpool as a force to reckon with, and thus increased his position in a table where it’s uncommon to see African players at the top.
However, Messi’s earnings have nothing to do with his desire to leave the Catalan side as the 33 years old has repeatedly said he is not playing for the money, he only wants to win games and consequently, laurels.
Barcelona has scheduled an election for March 21, in order to find a replacement for the club’s president Josep Bartomeu, whose leadership has been characterized by failures. The club is hoping that electing a new president next year will tame the dust of inconsistencies that has followed Bartomeu’s leadership, and convince Messi to stay at the club.