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Top 10 highest paid players in the world in 2021

Mohamed Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi
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Find out who are the 10 highest paid players around the football world, as well as how the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and more stars make their money.

The 2021 summer transfer window in Europe closed on August 31, bringing an end to the wildest one yet. The unpredictability, twists, and surprises were non-stop. Across an eight-week period, some of the highest paid players imaginable swapped clubs in new lucrative deals.

So who is the highest paid player in the world now? Cristiano Ronaldo is the best-paid player. The Portuguese forward is set to earn $125 million in total before taxes for the season. His club, Manchester United, will pay him a salary of $70 million and the remaining $55 million will come from endorsements.

According to American business magazine Forbes, CR7 will earn $15 million more than Paris Saint-Germain star Lionel Messi.

How was this list made?

Clubs, agents, sponsors and football experts were approached to determine an estimate for how much each player earns. All the figures mentioned in this article are before tax.

Top 10 highest paid players in football

The most significant change from 2020 is that Cristiano Ronaldo has overtaken Lionel Messi as the world’s highest-paid player.

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain have three players – Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe – inside the top five. Andres Iniesta, who plays for Vissel Kobe in Japan, is the only non-European-based star on this list.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) – $125m

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$70 million$55 million$125 million

After a trophy-laden three seasons at Juventus, Ronaldo is back at Manchester United. The 36-year-old sealed a deadline day return to the club where he first tasted Champions League and Ballon d’Or success.

Ronaldo has made over $1 billion gross in his career and will bank another $125 million this season. Manchester United will cover the lion’s share at $70m. While his sponsors, including Nike, will pay him an extra €55m before taxes.

2. Lionel Messi (PSG) – $110m

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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$75 million$35 million$110 million

Because of Barcelona’s financial problems, Messi had to pull the curtain on a glorious 21-year spell at Camp Nou. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner promptly sealed a free transfer to PSG. He signed a two-year contract with the club in August, with an option for a third year included.

The Parisians have ensured that no player earns a better salary than Messi at $75 million. He will also earn an extra $35 million in endorsements for this season.

3. Neymar (PSG) – $95m

Neymar, PSG, Atalanta
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$75 million$20 million$95 million

The world’s most expensive player in history signed a four-year contract extension at PSG in May until June 2025.

Neymar has arguably already repaid their faith by helping lure his good friend and former Barcelona teammate Messi to Paris. He earns the same $75 million salary as the Argentine but makes $15 million less in endorsements.

4. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) – $43m

Mbappe
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$28 million$15 million$43 million

While a World Cup winner, Mbappe still earns significantly less money than Messi and Neymar. Don’t expect that to last long, though, as his PSG contract expires next summer.

A new bumper deal awaits Mbappe, whether it’s at PSG or another club, next season. Thanks to his growing profile, sponsors are already paying the 22-year-old millions. In fact, EA Sports made him the youngest solo cover star of the FIFA football game in 2021. He is also the face of FIFA 22, making him the first player since Cristiano Ronaldo to feature on the cover in consecutive years.

5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – $41m

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$25 million$16 million$41 million

Salah is the highest paid African player in the world on a sweet $41 million. The Egyptian will earn a salary of $25 million at Liverpool for this season, while also bagging $16 million from sponsors.

Given his impressive feats at Liverpool, Salah is set to hold talks over a new contract with the club soon. The forward’s current deal expires in June 2023. His growing profile, meanwhile, has helped reduce hate crimes in the city itself.

6. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – $35m

Robert Lewandowski
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$27 million$8 million$35 million

The 2020 FIFA Best Player of the Year is out of contract in 2023 and will surely have earned one last big pay day.

Bayern Munich will pay Lewandowski $27 million for the 2021/22 season. Thanks to endorsement deals with brands like Nike and Head & Shoulders, the Pole will make an extra $8 million on the side.

7. Andres Iniesta (Vissel Kobe) – $35m

Top 5 most emotional moments ever seen in football
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$31 million$4 million$35 million

Playing on the other side of the world has its perks, as Iniesta has discovered.

The Barcelona and Spain legend has spent the last three years in Japan at Vissel Kobe. He continues to be a key part of the set-up and committed his future to the club until 2023 by signing a new two-year contract last April.

8. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) – $34m

Paul Pogba, Manchester United
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$27 million$7 million$34 million

Another top earner set for a big payday soon is Pogba.

At 28, the France international is at his peak and is out of contract next summer. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Juventus are reportedly interested in his services.

The summer arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, however, could convince Pogba to commit to Manchester United. The Red Devils will pay the midfielder $27 million for this season. With top brands, such as Adidas, sponsoring him, he will collect an extra $7 million.

9. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) – $32m

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$26 million$6 million$32 million

One player set to drop out of the highest paid players list soon is Bale.

The injury-hit Wales international is in the final year of his Real Madrid contract. The chances of him staying in Spain next season are low, especially with a $26 million salary. It’s likely Bale will have to take a huge pay cut for whichever club he joins next summer.

10. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) – $29m

Eden Hazard
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SalaryEndorsementsTotal
$26 million$3 million$29 million

Another injury-hit Real Madrid star earning big money on the highest paid players list is Hazard.

The former Chelsea star earns the same $26 million annual salary that the club pays Gareth Bale. He will also bag an estimated $3 million from endorsement deals with McDonald’s, Nike and Nissan.

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