The football world has been flipped once again. In an ever-changing landscape where superstars come and go, Lionel Messi being the crown jewel of Barcelona has never been in doubt – until now.
The 34-year-old has rubber-stamped a move to PSG following an unceremonious exit from his boyhood club in a cash-rich deal that will have sent accountants spinning over the last few weeks.
The beautiful game is a multi-billion pound industry, with the best football players in the world raking in vast sums with every swipe of the ball.
Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar may be considered the best three players around, but is their talent reflected by financial success?
examines the top 10 highest-paid players in the world. We’ve based our figures on reports from L’Equipe, Forbes and a variety of official sources to boost our accuracy.
All figures mentioned are before tax – unless specified – and do not include bonuses, extra fees and players’ various sponsorship deals which, in some cases, can instantly double their annual income.
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Highest-paid footballers in the world 2021
10. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – £350,000 per week
Scooping the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year gong for 2020 was reward for Robert Lewandowski’s ruthlessness in front of goal.
The 32-year-old striker shows no signs of slowing down and is the Bundesliga’s all-time leading foreign goalscorer.
Bayern Munich fork out a hefty chunk of their wage bill per season for Lewandowski’s services – and he’s a big draw on social media with 3.9m TikTok followers.
9. David De Gea (Man Utd) – £375,000 per week
The Manchester United star is the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world – and it lands him in 9th place on the list.
David de Gea’s Old Trafford contract – worth just shy of £400,000 per week – makes up the bulk of his annual earnings.
A string of blunders in the 2019/20 campaign had raised question marks over his future but the Spaniard has bounced back amid fierce competition from United academy graduate Dean Henderson.
8. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – £385,000 per week
De Bruyne recently signed a new deal with City that has seen him shoot to the top of the Premier League earning charts.
He earns more than teammate Raheem Sterling and new Man City signing Jack Grealish who both sit around the £300,000 per week mark.
The silky Belgian extended his city deal until 2025, locking him down for the prime of his career – a major relief for City fans and Pep Guardiola alike.
7. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) – £410,000 per week
The leader of the next generation, Kylian Mbappe is widely tipped to take over the mantle of football’s pre-eminent superstar in the years to come.
The 22-year-old’s permanent transfer from Monaco to PSG in 2018 remains the second most expensive in history and he has already plundered more than 100 goals for the club.
He confirmed his place among the best players on the planet by scoring four times as France won the 2018 World Cup, but flopped at the delayed Euro 2020 as he missed a decisive penalty, sending France home.
Mbappe’s also performing well off the pitch having graced the cover of FIFA 21 while he is one of Nike’s most marketable figures.
6. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) – £500,000 per week
It’s fair to say the Welsh superstar has suffered a fall from grace in recent years.
Once the most expensive player in football history, Gareth Bale was frozen out by Real Madrid and sent back on loan to Tottenham for the 2020/21 season, where he is struggling to make a mark on Jose Mourinho’s team.
Bale was one of Adidas’ biggest names and, with just one year left to run on his hefty Bernabeu contract, he is likely to slip out of the top 10 in the not-too-distant future.
5. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona) – £575,000 per week
Barcelona’s long-anticipated signing of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid in 2019 is the fifth most-expensive transfer in history but the versatile forward has hardly set the Nou Camp alight.
The Catalan club need to get their finances in order, so Griezmann’s mega deal could put him in line for a move away before it expires.
He infamously celebrated a goal in the 2018 World Cup final by performing Fortnite’s ‘Take the L’ dance – and he started his own eSports team last year.
4. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid) – £575,000 per week
Ex-Barcelona star Suarez has taken up Griezmann’s spot at his old haunt, Atletico. Suarez was controversially sold by Barcelona for a very low fee and made them pay dearly as he fired Atletico to the La Liga title at the first time of asking.
He scored 21 goals in 32 La Liga games to super charge Atletico’s surge for the title and has been worth every penny of his wage, unlike some of Barcelona’s big name stars.
This is likely to be Suarez’s last big pay day as the 34-year-old approaches the end of his career.
3. Neymar (PSG) – £606,000 per week
The poster boy of Brazilian football, Neymar beefed up his bank balance by sealing a world-record £200m transfer to PSG from Barcelona in 2017.
He is paid more than £30million per year by the French club before bonuses, who have assembled a squad of superstars in their bid to land the elusive Champions League title.
Perhaps a sign of his divisive nature, he rakes in significantly less cash from sponsors than the next two men on the list.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) – £900,000 per week
Apparently being the most popular athlete on the planet isn’t enough to land you a place at the top of the rich list.
Cristiano Ronaldo may be the most followed sportsperson on Instagram but his annual earnings are marginally dwarfed by one footballer.
The Portuguese superstar tops up his near-million pound weekly wages with an annual figure of approximately £34m in other earnings from his own CR7 brand and sponsors such as Nike and Herbalife.
He became the top goalscorer in football history with a goal for Juventus against Napoli in the 2021 Italian Super Cup to take his total for club and country to 760 and has continued to find the net since.
1. Lionel Messi (PSG) – £960,000 per week
Messi is considered by many to be the greatest player to have ever lived – and he backs up his talent with the highest earnings in the world.
We still feel unnerved by referring to him as ‘the PSG ace’ or ‘the former Barcelona man’ but the Argentinian superstar has landed an inevitably massive pay day from his move to PSG.
He was ready to sign a deal worth approximately £1.1m per week with Barcelona before tax, but after the Spanish side were unable to complete the deal due to La Liga financial rules, he was forced to leave the club he has spent a lifetime at.
Messi has now signed a deal worth £25m per year as a base salary after tax. That works out at approximately £50m per year before tax.
Once bonuses, signing-on fees and appearance fees are paid, Messi will be lifting a pay packet worth well above the million-a-week milestone, and that’s before external sponsorships.
An extra £25m is added to his pot from endorsements and sponsorships with the likes of Adidas and Pepsi.
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