With every passing season, the amount of money in the game of football is increasing at an alarming rate. Players are earning huge salaries for their hard work and talent, with the amount of money being thrown around for not only their talent but their celebrity being seemingly limitless.
Moreover, the rise of social media, in general, has allowed brands and players to create a platform for their fans and audiences. As the game continues to grow with the expansion of social media, players also continue benefitting from the popularity of the game to sign significant endorsement deals, which in some cases bring in more money than their actual salaries.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 highest-earning football players in the world in 2023.
Note: In line with the Sportico and Forbes figures, we have used US Dollars as the currency for reference in this article. Also, transfers that took place in January 2023 have been fact-checked with other sources.
#10 Raheem Sterling
Total earnings: US$27 million || On-field: US$18 million | Off-field: US$9 million
The England international is not making the same money he used to make with his former employers, Man City. Despite being Chelsea’s highest earner, with a reported base salary of £300,000-a-week, the 28-year-old’s annual on-field earnings have taken a hit from last year’s figure of US$22.6 million.
Sterling changed his boot supplier from Nike to New Balance in 2021, while he also holds multi-year sponsorship deals with Apple and Gillette. These three deals have contributed the most towards his US$9m off-pitch earnings this year.
#9 Andrés Iniesta
Total earnings: US$38 million || On-field: US$30 million | Off-field: US$8 million
Believe it or not, the 39-year-old Barcelona legend is still going strong in Japan. After leaving his childhood club in 2018, Iniesta had signed for Japanese club Vissel Kobe on a three-year deal. The club renewed his contract for another two seasons till 2023, which brings his annual on-field earnings to a reported US$30 million.
Off the pitch, Iniesta has a long line of sponsorship deals. The former Spain international has deals in place with the likes of Asics, Nike, DAZN, Nissan, GeneLife, Ariel, UFX.com and Konami, to name a few.
#8 Eden Hazard
Total earnings: US$38 million || On-field: US$33 million | Off-field: US$5 million
The Eden Hazard-Real Madrid marriage hasn’t worked out the way either party would have wanted. In almost four full seasons, Hazard has only scored seven goals, making a paltry 76 appearances for Los Blancos. Just like it was with Gareth Bale towards the end, Real Madrid have another player on hefty wages that they cannot seem to get off their books.
Despite not seeing much game time under current Real Madrid manager, Carlo Ancelotti, Hazard still raked in a reported US$33 million from his club over the last year. He also has in place endorsement deals with a host of companies; Nike, Sina Sports, Topps, Lotus Bakeries and McDonald’s, to name a few.
#7 Kevin De Bruyne
Total earnings: US$40 million || On-field: US$36 million | Off-field: US$4 million
Ever since Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City, there’s been one man running the show and pulling the strings from the heart of the action. Kevin De Bruyne has been the epitome of consistency for the blue half of Manchester, winning five league titles and currently on track for a historic treble.
Thus, it’s no surprise that the Belgian talisman is one of the highest earners at Man City. Although Erling Haaland has overtaken him in terms of on-field earnings, De Bruyne has still raked in a reported US$36 million this year.
In terms of off-field earnings, De Bruyne makes his earnings from his endorsement deals with Nike, McDonald’s and Veo Technologies.
#6 Erling Haaland
Total earnings: US$52 million || On-field: US$40 million | Off-field: US$12 million
The 22-year-old Norwegian is on course to make a claim for his very first Ballon d’Or if Manchester City manage to win the historic treble they’re currently on for. Such has been Erling Haaland’s impact on an already star-studded Sky Blues lineup.
The former Borussia Dortmund forward joined the Cityzens as their second-highest earner, with a reported base salary of £375,000-a-week, only last summer. After 50-odd goals, some outrageous assists, and breaking the all-time Premier League record for goals in a single season, Haaland has raked in this year a reported US$40 million including bonuses for his on-pitch performances.
Haaland’s mercurial performances have translated into fruitful associations with numerous brands. He is already endorsing brands like Nike, Samsung, Breitling and Viaplay, while he also holds a share in California-based startup Hyperice. These off-field associations have brought him a reported US$12 million this year.
#5 Mohamed Salah
Total earnings: US$53 million || On-field: US$35 million | Off-field: US$18 million
There was a lot of debate about whether Liverpool should have given Mo Salah the big salary hike that many believed a certain Sadio Mané deserved instead. But, despite Liverpool’s fall from grace this season, the 30-year-old Egyptian has produced 30 goals and 15 assists in 50 games this season thus far, proving his worth.
With a base pay of £350-000-a-week, Salah is Liverpool’s highest earner, but taking into account the performance-related bonuses, the two-time African Footballer of the Year has amassed a reported US$35 million in on-field earnings this year.
Salah also has in place endorsement deals with the likes of Adidas, Pepsi, Gucci and Vodafone, among other, which bring him an additional US$18 million in off-field earnings.
#4 Neymar Jr
Total earnings: US$85 million || On-field: US$50 million | Off-field: US$35 million
The Brazil international has always divided opinions wherever he’s gone. When Neymar signed for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for a world record fee, there was a lot of anticipation regarding what the flamboyant Brazilian would bring to the table, but with one injury after the other, his consistent inconsistency (mostly, unavailability) has started to become a thorn in the eyes of many at the club.
That said, Neymar remains a high earner at the Parisian club, having raked in a reported US$50 million in on-field earnings this year.
One of the reasons why PSG might still look to keep hold of Neymar is because of the social influence he brings to the table. The 31-year-old has endorsement deals with over 20 brands, which have brought him a reported US$35 million in off-field earnings this year.
#3 Kylian Mbappé
Total earnings: US$120 million || On-field: US$100 million | Off-field: US$20 million
Imagine getting on a phone call with the president of your country, with him asking you to stay at your current club — that’s the story of Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé. The 23-year-old Frenchman was headed for the exit door last summer, en route to the Spanish capital to play for Real Madrid. However, it took external forces for PSG to keep hold of their marquee player.
“What’s the price for such a deal,” you ask? Well, it’s reportedly US$100 million a year.
The 2018 World Cup winner, who almost single-handedly won another World Cup for his country last winter, also has a few notable names in his sponsorship kitty. Mbappé has ties with the likes of Nike, EA Sports, Hublot, Oakley and Sorare, which raked him a reported US$20 million in off-field earnings this year.
#2 Lionel Messi
Total earnings: US$130 million || On-field: US$65 million | Off-field: US$65 million
The little magician has finally conquered the world, and it is a fitting end to the career of a player who might go down in history as the greatest player ever to walk this earth.
However, despite all the international glory, with another league title wrapped up domestically, Messi fell just short of his old pal Cristiano Ronaldo in earnings this year.
The PSG #30 raked in a reported US$65 million from his club, including bonuses, while another US$65 million came in the form of off-field earnings via the 20-odd endorsement deals he currently has in place. His lifetime-sponsorship deal with Adidas alone bags him nearly one-third of his total off-field earnings.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo
Total earnings: US$136 million || On-field: US$46 million | Off-field: US$90 million
Following a tumultuous end to his second stint at Old Trafford, 38-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo found his new home in the Middle East with Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League. Although the five-time Ballon d’Or winner might be nearing the final days of his professional career, his reported US$46m-a-year salary and a massive signing-on fee, along with his off-pitch deals, have taken his overall earnings for this year to US$136 million.
Ronaldo boasts a healthy line of long-term endorsement deals, which includes the likes of Herbalife, Nike, DAZN, TAG Heuer and Clear, to name a few, which only add to his ever-growing off-field earnings. He also has a steady stream of revenue flowing from the multiple investments he has made in hotels, footwear and casual collections, and different startups.