Cristiano Ronaldo has become the world’s highest paid athlete for the first time since 2017, following his move to Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr. According to Forbes, the 38-year-old Portugal forward earned $136m (£108.7m) over the past 12 months. His contract with Al Nassr is reportedly worth more than 200m euros (£176.5m) per year. Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi is second on Forbes’ list, having earned $130m (£103.9m).
Forbes’ top 10 also features basketball star LeBron James and boxer Canelo Alvarez, while 20-time tennis Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is the only retired athlete on the list in ninth place. Dustin Johnson (sixth) and Phil Mickelson (seventh) are the first golfers to make the top 10 since Tiger Woods in 2020. Johnson was not in the top 50 in 2022 but after becoming the first high-profile player to join the controversial Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series, he has rocketed up Forbes’ rankings. The American two-time major winner – who received $18m (£16.2m at the time) after winning the inaugural LIV Golf championship – earned $107m (£85.5m) over the past year. Mickelson, who earned $106m (£84.7m), surpassed $1bn in career earnings pre-tax last year.
Forbes’ figures include both on-field earnings – including salaries, prize money and bonuses – and off-field earnings – sponsorship deals, appearance fees and memorabilia and licensing income. The top 10 highest paid athletes of 2021 according to Forbes are: Cristiano Ronaldo (football) – $136m (£108.7m); Lionel Messi (football) – $130m (£103.9m); Kylian Mbappe (football) – $120m (£95.9m); LeBron James (basketball) – $119.5m (£95.5m); Canelo Alvarez (boxing) – $110m (£87.9m); Dustin Johnson (golf) – $107m (£85.5m); Phil Mickelson (golf) – $106m (£84.7m); Stephen Curry (basketball) – $100.4m (£80.2m); Roger Federer (tennis) – $95.1m (£76m); and Kevin Durant (basketball) – $89.1m (£71.2m).