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Who is the richest footballer in the world - and no it’s not Cristiano Ronaldo…or Lionel Messi

Is CR7 a billionaire? Is Messi richer than the Portuguese star? Where does Neymar rank? What about Mbappe? Planet Sport has the answers.

Cristiano Ronaldo's surprise move to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr is not one born of a desire to win more silverware, it's down to money...piles and piles of the stuff.

Ronaldo was already sitting on a healthy chunk of change following a stellar career at Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United.

He was already in the big leagues when it came to richest footballer, but now he's taking a swing at the world's highest-paid athlete too.
Ronaldo is now reportedly earning $75million-a-year at the Saudi club, and that's without all the added extras which will probably see that figure double.

Ronaldo's new contract dwarfs the contract extension Kylian Mbappe signed with Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 which landed the French World Cup star a basic salary of $63million-a-year.

Ronaldo (€16million) leaps ahead of Mbappe (€7million), Neymar (€4million) when it comes to monthly salary (without bonuses), while Lionel Messi is scraping by on €3.375million.

But how do these astronomical figures relate to the rest of the footballing world?
Who is the world's richest player? The answer might surprise you.

22. Andres Iniesta - $86million

A Barcelona and Spain legend, Iniesta has won everything there is to be won for club and country, which included a four-year period in which Spain won a World Cup and two European Championships.
Iniesta is still playing in Japan for Vissel Kobe where a yearly salary of around $30million puts him among the highest earning footballers in the world.

21. Ronaldinho - $90million

A footballing icon who got fans from around the world off their seats when representing his country and clubs such as Barcelona and AC Milan.

A face of Nike adverts, his commercial from the mid 2000s where he puts his boots on, juggles the ball to the edge of the box and then hits the crossbar five times was the stuff of legends. And a nod to just how good video-editing had become.

20. Didier Drogba - $90million

An Ivorian and Chelsea legend, striker Drogba remains one of the best finishers to grace the Premier League.
His list of honours include four Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups and last but not least, a Champions League winners medal, in which he scored the goal to take the match to extra time before converting the match-winning penalty.
Drogba scored 65 times for his country and almost bagged 300 times at club level in a career that took in lucrative spells in China and Turkey and ended at the age of 40 at USL side Phoenix Rising.

19. Samuel Eto'o - $95million

From one of the greatest African players of all time to another. Eto'o, also a striker, is best remembered for his time at Barcelona, where he struck 130 times between 2004 and 2009.
Eto'o won Olympic gold and the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon in 2000 and the AFCON again two years later, the Copa del Rey with Mallorca in 2003, eight major honours at Barcelona and another five at Inter Milan.
His former clubs also included Qatar SC, Turkish teams Antalyaspor and Konyaspor and Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, earning him some huge paydays in the twilight of his career.

Eto'o is now president of the Cameroon football federation, and made the headlines again at the 2022 World Cup after a "violent altercation" with a 'fan' with a video camera. He apologised to the public for his part in the incident.

18. Kaka - $95million

Brazilian Kaka was an attacking midfielder who possessed incredible ability on the ball, lighting up many a game.
A former AC Milan and Real Madrid player, Kaka won pretty much all there was to be won, including the World Cup in 2002 with Brazil and the 2007 Ballon d'Or.
Lucrative spells at Milan, Madrid and latterly with Orlando City in MLS mean the Brazilian has plenty of money to spend on his two passions, real estate and cars.

17. Phillip Lahm - $100million

A one-club man (barring a loan spell with Stuttgart), the former Bayern Munich defender played over 700 times for club and country.
His 113 caps for Germany puts him in the top 10 for his nation and he captained his country to World Cup glory in 2014 before announcing his retirement from international football days later.
He won 21 honours for Bayern, including eight Bundesliga titles and was never sent off once.
A book deal, endorsements and huge annual contract at Bayern account for most of his wealth.

16. Pele - $100million

One of the greatest footballers, if not the greatest footballer of all time, Pele retired before many of the players on the list were even born.

He won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and scored 1,283 goals in his career (although 526 of those came in unofficial and tour matches).

And while Pele was not able to generate huge wealth during his career despite a lucrative spell with New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, he traded off his name since, building up a sizable sum advertising everything from Mastercard to erectile dysfunction aids.

Pele passed away in December 2022 but his legend will live on forever.

15. Eden Hazard - $100million

The Real Madrid winger is best known for his spell with Chelsea which saw him win the PFA and Premier League Player of the Season award in 2014/15.

He has won the league in France, England and in Spain and was the captain of Belgium, for whom he has appeared over 100 times since making his debut in 2008.

He hasn't hit heights at the Bernabeu but nevertheless has been able to take his net worth to $100million thanks to a huge contract and endorsements.

14. Francesco Totti - $110million

The 'King of Rome' joins our list despite playing for one club for his entire career.

At club level Totti only won the Serie A once and two Coppa Italias, so he's not high on the list when it comes to silverware compared to others. Although he does have a World Cup in his pocket, so one ahead of Ronaldo there.

The Italian equivalent of David Beckham is a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and spends a lot of his time working for charity. As a player he had many endorsement deals including Nike, Pepsi, Fiat, EA Sports and several modelling deals.

However, an ongoing acrimonious divorce with tv presenter wife Ilary Blasi in 2022 won't help his bank account.

13. Gareth Bale - $145million

A superstar at Spurs before becoming a Galactico at Real Madrid, Bale was reportedly on an annual wage of around $30million while in Spain.

So it was a big surprise when he took a huge pay cut to join LAFC in the MLS, coining in a mere £100,000 a week. Which is peanuts compared to the rest of this list.

He has made a lot of his loot from endorsements deals with several companies in his career including Adidas, EA Sports, Lucozade and BT Sport. Plus he draws in a tidy sum making sponsored posts to his 50million Instagram followers.

His enormous wealth means he will easily be able to fund a transition to his main love, golf, now his playing career is over.

12. Wayne Rooney - $145million

Still the leading scorer for England and Manchester United with 51 and 253 goals, respectively, the DC United head coach is reported to have a net worth of $145million.

Contracts, including a lucrative spell in MLS, endorsements and image rights account for his huge wealth.

Whilst manager of cash-strapped Derby County, he deferred his wages to allow the players to be paid.

11. Alexandre Pato - $145million

Former Brazilian wonderkid Alexandre Pato is the first name in the top 10, even though he has not quite lived up to the hype that accompanied his breakthrough at Internacional in 2006.

Still only in his early 30s, Pato's career has taken him to Italian giants AC Milan, Sao Paulo (loan), Corinthians, Chelsea (loan), Villarreal, Chinese club Tianjin, back to Sao Paulo and then on to the MLS with Orlando City.

The majority of Pato's net worth comes from savvy investments, sizable property holdings and lucrative endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics.

The 33-year-old also owns a chain of burger restaurants in Brasilia, a vodka brand and a fashion line.

10. Kylain Mbappe - $150million

Mbappe signed a contract extension in May 2022, which reportedly will him take home €630m in gross salary over the three-year deal.

He will also collect a €180m signing on bonus, which he'll get even if he leaves before 2025. Oh and don't forget his €69m loyalty bonus.

His healthy net worth includes deals with Nike, EA Sports and Hublot, but expect that to increase as he now has much greater power over his images rights.

9. Ronaldo - $160million

The original Ronaldo, or R9 as he is now called, was one of the best finishers the world has ever seen. He hit 295 goals in a club career that took in Inter and AC Milan plus Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Scored 62 for Brazil with whom he also won the World Cup and has gone on to forge a successful career in business.
The majority shareholder in Real Valladolid, he also owns Brazilian side Cruzeiro.

8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - $190million

Closing in on 600 club goals after a career which has taken in AC Milan, Manchester United, Barcelona, PSG and LA Galaxy and seen him win more than 30 trophies.

Even at the age of 41, Zlatan is still performing at the top level with AC Milan in Serie A.

Massive salaries, a hugely successful autobiography and never-ending endorsements have seen Zlatan amass a fortune to rival his ego.

7. Neymar - $200million

Although impossible to predict his exact net worth, Neymar takes his spot at number seven. A worldwide superstar, the PSG winger has won almost everything there is to be won at club level, apart from the Champions League.

Instantly recognisable around the world, he was made the world's highest paid player when moving to Paris.

Add in endorsements, massive sportswear deals with Nike and then Puma and two film appearances and it all adds up to seventh place on our list.

6. Dave Whelan - $220million

roberto martinez profile wigan athletic fa cup final 2013
Now, I know what you're thinking. How can Dave Whelan be above Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a list of footballers' net worth?
Well, the former Wigan Athletic owner was a full-back with Blackburn and Crewe before making his fortune with JJB Sports.
A leg break in the FA Cup final helped his transition to the retail business and he already had a market stall before he hung up his boots before the age of 30.

He bought Wigan Athletic in 1995 and helped them rise from Division Three to the Premier League, winning the FA Cup in 2013.

5. Lionel Messi - $400million

World Cup winner Messi has lit up the game since making his professional debut in 2004 and claimed almost 1,000 goal contributions at Barcelona before moving to PSG in the summer of 2021.

A dazzling dribbler, Messi is considered to be the greatest player of all time. However, in this particular list he finds himself behind GOAT rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

His contract at PSG being worth a reported €3.375million a month, plus he's also got his long-term deals with Adidas, Pepsi, MasterCard and Budweiser.

Now with a World Cup under his belt, Messi has probably reached the pinnacle of his career on the pitch, while off it life isn't too shabby either.

4. David Beckham - $400million

A worldwide superstar, the Inter Miami co-owner came through the Manchester United academy with the Class of 92, was a Galactico at Real Madrid and also played for AC Milan, LA Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain.
His marriage to Victoria 'Posh Spice' Beckham helped him become a fashion icon and he continues to be in demand long after his retirement from playing.
His endorsements include H&M, Tudor, Haig Whiskey, Armani, Breitling and he was was reportedly paid £10million to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo - $500million

A brand first and a player second, CR7 can't be far off becoming a billionaire.

With an Instagram following of 527million, Ronaldo can attract huge sums for his endorsements. Arguably he is now more valuable commodity to corporate business than he is to football managers. Just ask Erik ten Hag.

His departure from Manchester United before the 2022 World Cup left a sour taste in the mouth, and his dream of lifting the famous trophy in Qatar also ended in tears.
As a free agent the world was seemingly his oyster, but after the Manchester United debacle other European teams steered cleared of the five-times Ballon d'Or winner.

In December 2022, Saudi club Al-Nassr opened their wallet and snapped up Ronaldo for a reported €200m (£177m) per year - the equivalent of £3.3m per week.

His salary will be around $75m (£62m) of that figure, with the rest made up through image rights and commercial deals. Expect Ronaldo to also front Saudi Arabia's 2030 World Cup bid.

2. Mathieu Flamini - $14billion

The unheralded former Arsenal player has done very well for himself after football as he is the co-founder of GF Biochemicals, the first company in the world to be able to mass-produce levulinic acid.

In short, it is a molecule made from plant waste that can be used as a substitute for petrol. He runs the company with partner Pasquale Granata.
With a believed net worth of over $10billion, he is worth more than his former club.

1. Faiq Bolkiah - $20billion

Admit it, you're thinking who?
Bolkiah plays for Thai club Chonburi and was at the academies of English sides Southampton, Leicester and Chelsea - he grew up in England after being born in the United States.
He has also captained Brunei's national team and spent time playing for Maritimo in Portugal.
However, before you start thinking the Thai League pays well, it is actually Faiq's family connections which account for his wealth.
For he is the son of Brunei's prince Jefri Bolkiah, while his uncle Hassanal is Sultan of the oil-rich kingdom.

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