The world’s top soccer players aren’t always household names in the United States, but superstars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have parlayed the sport’s global fan base into massive annual income.
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Soccer stars hold the top three spots on Forbes’ current list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, and their earnings have regularly outpaced those of the top players in the NFL or NBA in recent years. Salary is only one source of their income -- many players have built their fortunes through endorsement deals or entrepreneurial pursuits.
FOX Business breaks down the world’s highest-paid soccer players of 2019 below, according to Forbes’ annual calculations.
Andrés Iniesta, Vissel Kobe, Spain’s national team
Total earnings: $32. 5 million
A mainstay on Spain’s national team for more than a decade, Iniesta is considered one of the greatest midfielders in soccer’s history. He scored the winning goal in Spain’s championship match victory over the Netherlands in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The 35-year-old earned $30 million in salary in the 12 months ending in June and has a lucrative endorsement deal with Japanese apparel brand Asics.
Paul Pogba, Manchester United, France’s national team
Total earnings: $33 million
Pogba was such a sought-offer talent that he joined Manchester United in 2016 for a then-record transfer fee of 105 million pounds (roughly $115 million). He played a critical role in France’s run to the 2018 FIFA World Cup title, scoring a goal in the tournament final.
He earns $29 million in salary with the Premier League club and an additional $4 million from endorsement deals, including a pact with Adidas.
Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil’s national team
Total earnings: $105 million
A rising star on and off the field, Neymar holds the current record for the biggest transfer in sports history. Paris Saint-Germain paid Barcelona 222 million euros ($243 million) to acquire Neymar’s services, and he is due to earn $350 million in overall salary through 2022. Over the last year, he’s earned $75 million in salary and an additional $30 million in endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Red Bull and Beats by Dre.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus, Portugal’s national team
Total earnings: $109 million
Arguably the world’s most well-known soccer star, Ronaldo has scored more goals than any other active player and played for top clubs such as Inter Milan, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan. His portfolio of endorsement deals includes partnerships with Nike, streaming platform DAZN, Herbalife and his own line of apparel and accessories, CR7.
He earns $65 million in salary and another $44 million off the pitch. Ronaldo has a lifetime contract with Nike. The brand stood by him amid a lawsuit from a woman who accused Ronaldo of paying for her silence over an alleged sexual assault.
Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, Argentina’s national team
Total earnings: $127 million
At 31, Messi is already the world’s second-most prolific active goal scorer, trailing only Ronaldo. He is due to earn more than $80 million in salary annually through the 2020-21 season. He earned another $35 million in the 12 months ending in June through sponsorship deals with Adidas, Gatorade and Mastercard, among other brands.