For years, the world of football has, to be frank, gone mad with money. What was once a sport where the majority of players earned a decent but not astronomical living has been replaced – at the top level – by immense sums of money. While the top level of football earnings is very much out of kilter with the rest of the sport worldwide, the numbers do bring plenty of interested glances. Ever since the introduction of private money into the game, things have changed.
The era of sponsorship and private ownership of clubs changed everything. Today, football plays a major role in soft politics, helping the super-rich from various parts of the world build their reputation. Many of these people come from major industries such as oil, aviation and even government. It has changed the face of the sport, and, paired with TV money and sponsorship programs, has turned the global game into a mirror of our own society.
While still by far and away the most competitive and unpredictable sport on the planet, football is very much made of the haves and have-nots. For example, proud football clubs such as SL Benfica, AFC Ajax Amsterdam and Glasgow Celtic all sit in a rung far below the very elite, despite being winners of multiple trophies at European level.
Today, the global game has changed to a level that we could never have really seen coming – not truly. Let’s take a look, then, at those who are the biggest winners from the world of football today.
Naturally, the Argentinian – widely regarded as the greatest player of all-time – is regarded as the highest earner, too. According to research from Betting sites, he earns around $110m in a single year, a staggering sum of money. When you are the face of a club which has become among the dominant forces in European football for the best part of 25 years, though, it’s very easy to see how that might come about.
And given the fact that any club in the world would do what they could to afford Messi, it makes sense that Barcelona have tied down their legend to an eye-watering contract. Add in the fact that Messi brings in immense sums of money from other endorsements and the like, too, and it is easy to see that Messi is among the most lucrative sports personalities within the modern game
Next up on the list is the arch-rival of Lionel Messi, in Cristiano Ronaldo. While they no longer compete against each other on a regular basis, the are still the two greatest of their era. Ronaldo now wears the black and white stripes of Juventus, having moved on from Real Madrid after a nine-year association.
With an annual income of around $107m, too, it’s easy to see why Ronaldo is such a global superstar. Such sums of money produces an almost instant appeal about you, and it’s for that reason that the Portuguese is seen as such an icon.
As the highest present goal scorer in international football who is still active, too, Ronaldo does as much as he can to earn the coin he brings in. An almost guarantee of trophies, it is no shock to see that Ronaldo, even at his present age, can command such salaries.
When Brazilian poster boy Neymar Jr made the move to FC Barcelona from Santos FC in Brazil, it became a global story. The intrigue and the madness around the signing ensured that there was a long investigation into the transfer. After a period of success in the Catalan capital, though, Neymar eventually chose to move on: moving for a world record $220m to Paris Saint-Germain.
The Brazilian arrived in his new surroundings a global star, and his $89m annual earnings proves that beyond all doubt. His status as the prince of Paris has already been set in stone, and played a major role in the redevelopment of the entire transfer market. Despite his incredible quality, many see the income and the fee paid for Neymar as a corrupting force in the global game, with such incredible fees becoming more and more normalised in a market losing any rationality.
While it might be odd to see a Welsh footballer rank so highly, the dynamic Gareth Bale has more than earned his position. The Real Madrid star has struggled in the 2018/19 season, but he has been amazing for Los Blancos ever since he first arrived.
Scoring decisive goals in UEFA Champions League games has become his stock and trade, with his amazing overhead kick scored in the 2018 Final against Liverpool going down as one of the greatest goals of all time. At the moment, Bale earns around $34m a year from his contract at Madrid.
His rise from the youth team of Southampton through to his travels and struggles at Tottenham Hotspur has seen Bale come through immense challenge throughout his career. Now, the Welshman looks set to leave a legacy on the game and also leave the most comfortable of futures for his entire family.
2018 FIFA World Cup winner Paul Pogba is easily among the biggest stars of the modern global game. His immense popularity across the globe, as well as his incredible ability to make a difference for club and for country, ensures he’s someone who justifies his incredible earning potential. His once world record move to Manchester United seen him net a cool $29m from the club on an annual basis: an incredible sum of money.
Now, though, it looks like Pogba might finally be making good on that immense financial investment made in him. Ever since the exit of Jose Mourinho from the United side, the talisman of the modern Red Devils has very much rose to the occasion.
For football fans, the money at the top of the game is both an exciting factor and a problem. Money might always corrupt, but those at the top of the global game have worked as hard as they can to reach that level. The morality of such figures might be hard to relate to – but, in the eyes of the fans of these players, they earned it.