Athletes are paid based on how rare their skill sets are and how much a sports team can monetize their talents with their sport’s audience and fan base. Here are the professional athletes paid the highest annual salary contracts worldwide.

Who are the highest-paid athletes in the world?

Athlete/Team/Contract Years/Contract Years/Total Contract Value/Annual Income[1]

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr Association football 2.5 years (2023–2025) $536,336,818/ $214,534,727
  2. Lionel Messi Barcelona F.C. Association football 4 years (2017-2021) $674,000,000/ $168,500,000*
  3. Canelo Álvarez DAZN Boxing 5 years (2018–2023) $365,000,000/ $73,000,000
  4. Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball 4 years (2024–2028) $224,000,000/ $56,000,000
  5. Devin Booker Phoenix Suns Basketball 4 years (2024–2028) $224,000,000/ $56,000,000
  6. Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors Basketball 4 years (2022–2026) $215,353,664/ $53,838,416
  7. Zach LaVine Chicago Bulls Basketball 5 years (2022–2027) $215,200,000/ $53,800,000
  8. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Auto racing 5 years (2023–2028) $275,000,000/ $53,300,000
  9. Nikola Jokić Denver Nuggets Basketball 5 years (2023–2028) $264,000,000/ $52,800,000
  10. Bradley Beal Washington Wizards Basketball 5 years (2022–2027) $251,000,000/ $50,200,000

(*Messi took home an astonishing $75 million in on-field earnings over the last year in 2022.[2] His new team Paris Saint-Germain paid him a €25 million sign-on bonus, and he is making a total yearly salary of $67.6 million).[3]

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is a professional soccer player widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. He has won numerous titles and individual awards throughout his career, including five Ballon d’Or awards, which are given to the best player in the world. Ronaldo has scored over 750 career goals for club and country and has helped lead his teams to numerous domestic and international titles. He has also consistently performed at the highest level in the biggest tournaments, such as the World Cup and the Champions League, and has been a key player on the Portuguese national team. In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Ronaldo is known for his exceptional work ethic and dedication to training, which has helped him maintain his high level of play throughout his career. These factors, along with his talent and charisma, have contributed to his popularity and the high salaries he commands.

2. Lionel Messi Barcelona

Lionel Messi is a professional soccer player widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. He has won numerous titles and individual awards throughout his career, including six Ballon d’Or awards, which are given to the best player in the world. Messi has scored over 750 career goals for club and country and has consistently performed at the highest level for his former club team, Barcelona. He has helped lead the team to numerous domestic and international titles, including ten La Liga championships and four UEFA Champions League titles. In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Messi is known for his exceptional technical ability and dribbling skills, making him one of the most exciting players to watch. He played for Barcelona for more than 16 years, but in 2020, the team announced that they could not afford to pay his salary, and he subsequently moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.

He signed with Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. His base salary for the team is smaller than his Barcelona earnings. Reports stated at the time of Messi’s signing at PSG in the summer of 2021 that he had agreed to a two-year contract with PSG that boasted a $41 million annual net salary, including bonuses.[4] Sources say Messi was paid a sign-on fee of €25 million at the time of signing.

Lionel Messi has completed his free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain following the expiration of his contract at Barcelona.

The deal includes an option for a third year at the same pay rate. He will wear the No. 30 shirt, the first number he wore in Barcelona.[5]

In 2022, Lionel Messi finally won the World Cup with Argentina in Qatar.

3. Canelo Álvarez

Canelo Álvarez is a professional boxer who is widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He has won numerous titles and accolades throughout his career, including multiple world championships in multiple weight classes. Álvarez has an impressive record of 55 wins, one loss, and two draws, with 37 wins by knockout. He has defeated many top fighters and is known for his skilled technique and power punching. In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Álvarez is known for his dedication to training and calm and focused demeanor in the ring. These factors, along with his talent and popularity, have contributed to the high salaries he commands for his fights.

4. Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns is a professional basketball player widely considered one of the best players in the league. He has won numerous individual awards throughout his career, including the NBA Rookie of the Year award and multiple NBA All-Star selections. Towns has also helped lead his team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, to the playoffs multiple times. He is known for his exceptional skills on offense and defense and is one of the few players in the league who can consistently contribute in all game areas. In addition to his on-court accomplishments, Towns is known for his dedication to training and his good sportsmanship.

5. Devin Booker

Devin Booker is a professional basketball player widely considered one of the best young players in the league. He has won numerous individual awards throughout his career, including the NBA Three-Point Contest and multiple NBA All-Star selections. Booker has also helped lead his team, the Phoenix Suns, to the playoffs multiple times. He is known for his exceptional scoring ability and shooting skills and is one of the top shooters in the league.

6. Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry is a professional basketball player considered one of the best shooters and point guards in the league’s history. He has won numerous individual awards throughout his career, including three NBA championships, two NBA Most Valuable Player awards, and multiple NBA All-Star selections. Curry has also helped lead his team, the Golden State Warriors, to the playoffs multiple times. He is known for his exceptional shooting skills, scoring ability, and playmaking, and he is one of the most exciting players to watch.

7. Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine is a professional basketball player known for his exceptional scoring ability and athleticism. He has won numerous individual awards throughout his career, including the NBA Dunk Contest and multiple NBA All-Star selections. LaVine has also helped lead his team, the Chicago Bulls, to the playoffs multiple times. He is known for his high-scoring games and acrobatic dunks and is one of the most exciting players to watch on the court.

8. Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen is a professional race car driver widely considered one of the best young drivers in Formula 1. He has won numerous races and accolades, including multiple Grand Prix victories and podium finishes. Verstappen is known for his exceptional driving skills and aggressive racing style and is often considered a fan favorite.

9. Nikola Jokić

Nikola Jokić is a popular and highly-paid professional basketball player due to his outstanding achievements on the court. He’s a center for the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Jokić has been named an NBA All-Star multiple times and has received several accolades, including being named to the All-NBA Third Team and the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He has also won several awards for his performance on the court, including the NBA Most Improved Player Award and the NBA J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. Jokić is known for his exceptional passing skills, scoring ability, and rebounding, and he has helped lead the Nuggets to numerous playoff appearances.

10. Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal is a highly popular and highly-paid professional basketball player due to his outstanding achievements on the court. He is a shooting guard for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Beal has been named an NBA All-Star multiple times and has received several accolades, including being named to the All-NBA Third Team and the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He has also won several awards for his performance on the court, including the NBA Sportsmanship Award and the NBA Players Association Community Assist Award. Beal is known for his exceptional scoring ability and shooting skills and has helped lead the Wizards to numerous playoff appearances.

Conclusion

It’s interesting to see how much the teams value the players and pay them directly based on the income they can generate for their team owners. Most professional athletes on this list can fill the stadiums and arenas with fans and lead their teams to championships.

By Steve Burns

After a lifelong fascination with financial markets, Steve began investing in 1993 and trading his accounts in 1995. It was love at first trade. After more than 30 successful years in the markets, Steve now dedicates his time to helping traders improve their psychology and profitability. New Trader U offers an extensive blog resource with more than 4,000 original articles, online courses, and best-selling books covering various topics.