Which Athletes Have the Highest Salaries in the World?

March 29, 2019

The value of sports franchises around the world continues to rise -- and with it, the size of the contracts signed by their star players.

The 2019 Major League Baseball offseason was wild: The Hot Stove cooked up more than a billion dollars in combined guaranteed money for just three players: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels, $426.5 million), Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies, $330 million) and Manny Machado (San Diego Padres, $300 million).

But no baseball player ranks among the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world by average annual salary (the list does not include endorsement money).

Nor does any NFL player. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has the league’s richest contract at $33.5 million per year, comes almost $8 million short of cracking this list.

So who is smiling all the way to the bank? Heck, these guys could probably open their own bank. Here are the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world.

10. Russell Westbrook, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder: Mr. Triple-Double now averages $41.4 million dollars per year with his new contract that kicked in this season. He collects $35.7 million this season, going up to $47.1 million in the final year of his deal.

9. Neymar, Soccer, Paris Saint-Germain: The Brazilian soccer star is doing quite well for himself in France. According to the French newspaper L’Equipe, Neymar’s monthly compenation comes out to $41.5 million dollars per year.

T-7. James Harden, NBA, Houston Rockets: The Beard’s average annual compensation is a bit higher than Westbrook’s because Harden has the latest and greatest version of the NBA’s max contract at $42.3 million per year.

T-7. John Wall, NBA, Washington Wizards: Maybe the most surprising name on the list. The Wizards paid up to keep their franchise player -- now out with a devastating Achilles injury -- at that same max contract price of $42.3 million per year.

6. Antoine Griezmann, Soccer, Atletico Madrid: Greizmann, who helped lead France to the 2018 FIFA World Cup title and was named Man of the Match in the final against Croatia, earns a handsome $44.7 million per year.  

5. Sebastian Vettel, F1, Ferrari: Imagine making $45.2 million per year and being the second-highest paid person in your sport. Life is good for Vettel, who won four consecutive Formula One championships from 2010 to 2013 and has more than 50 career wins.

4. Lewis Hamilton, F1, Mercedes: Hamilton, Vettel's English rival, pulls in $56.5 million per year. Hamilton has five Formula One championships (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018) and more than 70 races.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer, Juventus: The Portuguese soccer star’s monthly salary in Euros converts to $63.7 million per year. Ronaldo has won the Ballon D'Or (given to the top soccer player in the world) a record-tying five times.

2. Canelo Alvarez, Boxing, DAZN: The Mexican fighter signed a five-year contract with the streaming service DAZN (pronounced duh-ZONE) in 2018. It’s an 11-fight contract worth $73 million per year. Alvarez has a record of 51-1-2 -- his lone loss came to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Alvarez is set to defending his IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs on May 4.

1. Lionel Messi, Soccer, FC Barcelona: The Argentinian soccer sensation makes an incredible $112.5 million per year his Spanish club. That’s $9.4 million per month. Messi also has won five Ballon D'Or awards.

By Stephen Andress