Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and the Five Highest Earning Football Players in 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and the Five Highest Earning Football Players in 2023

Ero Samson
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
Cristiano Ronaldo logo
C. Ronaldo
Al Nassr FC logoFPortugal logo
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior logo
Al-Hilal Saudi FC logoFBrazil logo
Karim Benzema logo
Al-Ittihad Club logoFFrance logo
  • Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated football over the last decade
  • The two football veterans are amongst the richest football players in the world
  • Sports Brief takes a look at the five highest-earning football players of this year

Football remains one of the most financially rewarding sporting endeavours.

Operating within a multi-billion-dollar industry, individuals endowed with exceptional talent often find themselves achieving substantial financial success.

Ronaldo, Benzema, Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema are among the list of highest-earning football players in 2023. Image: Michael Reegan.
Source: Getty Images

Over time, football has consistently provided numerous elite stars with a multitude of opportunities to amass wealth through salaries, bonuses, endorsements, and investments.

As 2023 gradually draws to a close, Sports Brief highlights the five highest-earning footballers through the year.

Football's top 5 earners in 2023

5. Karim Benzema: $106 million

The former Real Madrid captain, mirroring Cristiano Ronaldo's path, finalised his move to Saudi Pro League club, Al-Ittihad earlier this summer.

This transfer catapulted Benzema up the ranks of the highest-earning football players, with his on-field income surging to approximately $100 million, while his off-field earnings are reported to be around $6mil, according to reports from Forbes.

4. Kylian Mbappe: $110 million

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is believed to have accumulated a total income of $110mil during 2023.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Mbappe's future, his lucrative endorsement agreements with notable brands, such as Nike, Hublot, and Sorare have significantly contributed to his substantial off-field earnings, ensuring a substantial paycheque throughout the year.

3. Neymar Jr: $112 million

The Brazilian forward has sponsorship, including deals with Puma, Konami, and Red Bull. According to Forbes, he reportedly earns approximately $32mil in fees from these brands. Additionally, Neymar's transfer to the Saudi Pro League club, Al-Hilal has also come with a range of accompanying perks.

2. Lionel Messi: $135 million

The on-field income of the Argentine forward is approximated at $65mil, attributed largely to his transfer to the Major League Soccer franchise, Inter Miami. Off the field, it is estimated he earns around $70mil.

Messi's move to the Herons has generated unprecedented fan interest in the MLS, leading to a substantial increase in the club's revenue, as reported by Goal. Additionally, the World Cup-winning Argentinean has secured endorsement deals with various brands such as Adidas, Mastercard, Pepsi, and Saudi Arabia's Tourism Authority.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo: $260 million

In 2023, Ronaldo not only secured the top spot as the highest-earning footballer but also emerged as the highest-paid athlete across all sports, according to Forbes. His contract with Saudi Arabian club, Al-Nassr is reportedly valued at approximately $200mil.

Complementing this, his endorsement deals with major brands such as Nike, Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, Jacob, and others contributed to an estimated annual income of around $60mil. Additionally, the veteran's agreement with Al-Nassr includes other incentives from commercial partnerships facilitated by the club, further increasing his earnings.

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Ronaldo to sue Juventus over wages

Sports Brief also previously reported on Ronaldo reportedly preparing a lawsuit against Juventus for a substantial sum of £17 million in alleged unpaid wages.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner had agreed to defer his salary with the Italian club to assist with their financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Portuguese veteran has reportedly already approached the prosecutor's office in the city of Turin and has since decided to take action against his ex-club.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).