5 footballers rank on list of top 10 highest-paid athletes of 2024

  • Forbes unveil annual list of top 10 highest-paid athletes
  • Record-high five footballers included
  • Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among headline names on list
Messi and Ronaldo are, obviously, very handsomely paid
Messi and Ronaldo are, obviously, very handsomely paid / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images, Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

Five of the top ten highest-paid athletes in world sport are footballers, raking in over $719m between them.

Forbes have published their annual list of the globe's best-paid sportspeople, and for the first time since its inception in 2012, over three footballers made the cut.

Coming in at number one is Cristiano Ronaldo, who took home $260m - $200m of which came through on-field earnings. This is the fourth time that Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia at the end of 2022, has topped the list, while his $260m incomings are a record for a footballer.

Lionel Messi is the second-highest paid footballer, ranking at third on Forbes' list. With $70m of his £135m annual earnings coming through off-field endeavours, he is the only footballer in the top ten whose on-field salary is not their primary source of income.

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Mbappe might not make the 2025 list after leaving PSG / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Only one footballer plying their trade in Europe has made Forbes' list, and that's Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain, who made $110m. However, he is in line to take a huge cut upon leaving the French chamoions this summer and is expected to join Real Madrid on a much lower salary, though there may be more commercial opportunities at a higher profile club.

Despite their relatively unsuccessful ventures in Saudi Arabia so far, Neymar (seventh) and Karim Benzema (eighth) also make the list. Brazil forward Neymar earned $108m, while 2022 Ballon d'Or winner Benzema ranks narrowly behind at $106m, though his total of only $6m off-field earnings is the second-lowest on the entire list.

Forbes' top ten is completed by golfer Jon Rahm (second), NBA stars LeBron James (fourth), Giannis Antetokounmpo (fifth) and Stephen Curry (ninth), and NFL's Lamar Jackson (tenth).