If you’re good at it, football can pay really, really well. If you’re capable of advertising yourself well enough, you can create your own brand and persona that will take you to even higher financial clouds. Here we have a list of top 10 richest active footballers based on their estimated net worth.
10- Eden Hazard (US$100 million)
The eldest of the Hazard brothers has easily been one of the best forwards of the past decade. Despite joining Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 for a base fee of €100 million and a weekly wage north of €450,000, injuries and lack of fitness have hampered his time.
Nevertheless, as we hope to see him at his best soon, there’s no doubt that the Belgian has successfully leveraged his reputation to build a successful brand. Alongside Nike, who has been his official sports equipment supplier since 2012, Hazard has sponsorship deals with Sina Sports, Topps, and Lotus Bakeries. He also owns a US$12m-worth mansion in Spain.
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9- Mesut Özil (US$100 million)
Age – 32 (15 October 1988)
Country – Germany
Current club – Fenerbahçe S.K. (Süper Lig)
Özil’s Arsenal nightmare finally ended last month after he decided to terminate his lucrative £350,000-a-week contract to join Fenerbahçe on a £4.5m-a-year contract.
His last contract at Arsenal has certainly helped Özil a great deal in building his net worth, but the former World Cup Winner has other avenues as well. Sponsored by Adidas since 2013, Özil also owns an eSports team called M10 that compete in FIFA and Fortnite tournaments.
Moreover, Özil is also famous for his charity work and strong-minded activism, some of which has credited to his personality deemed difficult to the outsiders.
8- Andrés Iniesta (US$120 million)
Age – 36 (11 May 1984)
Country – Spain
Current club – Vissel Kobe (Meiji Yasuda J1 League)
Yes, Don Andrés is still plying his trade in Japan. Few months after joining Vissel Kobe on a €25m-a-year contract in 2018, Iniesta replaced Nike with Japanese sportswear brand Asics. His other major sponsorship deals include the likes of Nissan and UFX.com. He’s also the major shareholder of his boyhood club, Albacete.
7- Gareth Bale (US$125 million)
The Welshman is yet to show signs of his past self as he continues to gain momentum while on loan at Spurs from Real Madrid. Much like Özil, his parent club has regretted giving Bale that £600,000-a-week contract the moment it was signed. No doubt, however, that over the past decade Bale has went on to win every major club trophy and establish himself as one of the highest earners in the footballing world.
Adidas has been the long-time sports equipment supplier to Gareth Bale. The Wales men’s national team’s captain also holds deals with Nissan, Lucozade, BT Sport and has been a cover star for EA Sports’ FIFA series and that for Konami’s Pro Evo Soccer for its Euro 2016 content in the past. He also earns reportedly north of £135,000 for a sponsored post on Instagram.
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6- Alexandre Pato (US$145 million)
Age – 31 (2 September 1989)
Country – Brazil
Current club – Free Agent (Last played for São Paulo in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A)
Despite the early start the Brazilian never really reached the heights he was touted for, and yet, he’s one of the wealthiest footballers in the world who are still playing.
Despite being sponsored by Nike in the past, Pato was recently seen wearing Adidas’ Nemeziz 19.1. Having last played for São Paulo, Pato’s wealth can be credited not only to sponsors but his many investments. He has an endorsement deal with CoverGirl cosmetics, but also owns a restaurant chain (Fat Pato Burger) in Brasília, along with a football team (Pato Branco Angels) and his own brands of vodka (Pure Wonderpato) and perfume (With Love from Alexandre).
5- Neymar (US$185 million)
Age – 28 (5 February 1992)
Country – Brazil
Current club – Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1 Uber Eats)
When you think of the wealthiest footballers, it’s hard to take Neymar out of the list. The Brazilian has indulged in mega-money deals before he landed in Europe in 2013, and his current €36m-a-year contract with PSG certainly helps his cause.
Having recently changed his sports equipment supplier from Nike to Puma, Neymar reportedly rakes in around US$25m in endorsement deals. His other major sponsors include the likes of Red Bull, REPLAY, GaGà Milano, Pokerstars, Qatar Airways and QNB.
4- Zlatan Ibrahimović (US$190 million)
At this point, we really shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that despite being 39, Zlatan is still going strong and is currently one of the best forwards in Serie A, leading the rossoneri to their first league title in ten years.
The Swede is his side’s top earner with his €7m-a-year contract. His sponsorship deals bring him around US$10m annually and include his long-time sports equipment supplier Nike as well as the likes of Nivea, Samsung, Microsoft Xbox and Volvo. He also owns three mansions in Sweden that are collectively valued at US$15m. His other investments include his own range of perfumes, as well as a 23.5% stake in Swedish top-flight club Hammarby IF.
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3- Lionel Messi (US$400 million)
Age – 33 (24 June 1987)
Country – Argentina
Current club – FC Barcelona (LaLiga Santander)
Messi fans might have something to say about their idol being third in this list, especially after the leak of his €555m deal that he’s supposed to earn between 2017 and 2021. But then, Messi has been one of the highest earners at Barcelona (roughly US$90m p.a.) for a long time.
Messi’s sponsorship deals annually accrue him just north of US$30m annually. His major endorsements include the likes of Adidias who has sponsored him since 2006, as well as Pepsi, Lay’s, Gatorade, and Budweiser. Because of Barça’s sponsorship deal with KONAMI, Messi currently appears on the cover of Pro Evo Soccer, but has served as the cover star for EA Sports’ FIFA series for four of its instalments (FIFAs 13-16).
2- Cristiano Ronaldo (US$460 million)
Cristiano Ronaldo knows how to play football, and Cristiano Ronaldo knows how to shine. The Portuguese legend continues to defy the laws of nature as he continues to be one of the best forwards on the planet despite reaching 36 years of age.
The ‘CR7’ brand has only grown exponentially over the last decade. His brand deals are as good a template as there shall ever be for growing a brand outside of your sport of choice. Alongside his €31m-a-year contract with Juventus, Cristiano has a lifetime deal with Nike. His other major sponsors include the likes of Herbalife, Altice, DAZN Sports, and MTG. Because of Juve’s sponsorship deal with KONAMI, Cristiano currently appears on the cover of Pro Evo Soccer, but has served as the cover star for EA Sports’ FIFA series for two of its instalments (FIFAs 18 and 19).
Cristiano has invested in a hair transplant clinic in Madrid called Insparya. Through his CR7 brand, he also runs a clothing line, a perfume series, multiple beauty products and a chain of fitness centres. He has his own museum in his hometown of Madeira, whose international airport is named after him. With the biggest followship across all major social media channels, Cristiano Ronaldo’s brand easily bags the spot for one of the biggest for a footballer.
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1- Faiq Bolkiah (US$20 billion)
Age – 22 (9 May 1998)
Country – Brunei
Current club – C.S. Marítimo (Liga NOS)
This might come as a shock to you if you don’t follow football close enough, but for football nerds the name Bolkiah is well-known for quite a few years. No, he isn’t the most high-profile footballer in the list and no, he barely has any endorsement deals, but purely out of his passion for football which qualifies him for this list, Faiq Jefri Bolkiah’s wealth blows everyone else on this list out of the water and then some.
Son of Jefri Bolkiah, Prince of Bruinei and nephew of Hassanal Bolkiah, the current Sultan of Brunei, it is needless to say Faiq will never want for money in his life. Born in Los Angeles, he holds dual citizenship of both Brunei and the US. Despite never playing in the Premier League, Faiq has spent time in the academies of Southampton (2009-13), Arsenal (2013-14), Chelsea (2014-15) and Leicester City (2016) during his time in the UK, before joining Portuguese top-flight club Marítimo ahead of this season. He’s also the captain of the Brunei men’s national football team.
While the other players in the list have worked quite hard during their illustrious careers to build their brand and secure all of their wealth, one can hardly argue that it’ll take quite an endeavour for anyone to surpass Faiq Bolkiah’s US$20bn mark.