LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo has emerged as the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2023, earning more than the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar in the past 12 months, according to Forbes.
Ronaldo, who is also listed by Forbes as the highest paid athlete in any sport, tops the list with an expected total income of US$260 million.
The Portuguese striker’s contract with the Saudi Arabian club, Al-Nassr, which he joined from Manchester United last January, is reported to be worth US$200 million while his endorsement portfolio including Nike and Jacob & Co is estimated to be worth US$60 million each year, according to Forbes.
Messi ranked second on the list with an expected total income of US$135 million, boosted by his move to Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami.
Messi is the first MLS player to appear in the top 10 since David Beckham in 2012.
Brazilian forward Neymar completed the top three with a total income of US$112 million after signing a contract with Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League last August.
The influence of the Saudi Pro League is clearly seen in the Forbes list with four players (Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane) in the world’s top 11 list.
According to Forbes, the combined earnings of four Saudi Pro League players accounted for more than half of the US$995 million earned collectively by all 11 players on the richest list.
Kylian Mbappe is next, behind his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, with a total income of US$110 million.
Manchester City’s Erling Haaland is the highest-paid English Premier League player with a higher total annual income than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and team-mate Kevin De Bruyne.
According to Forbes, on-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned in the past 12 months while off-field earnings are estimated sponsorship deals, appearance fees, licensing income and cash returns from businesses operated.