By Victor Kanayo
Latest rating by Forbes has revealed that Portuguese football captain Cristiano Ronaldo, his Argentine counterpart Lionel Messi and Brazil mercurial forward Neymar are top on the list of highest paid footballers in 2023.
However, the rating showed that Ronaldo is the highest paid of all in the last 12 months.
Ronaldo, who Forbes also ranks as the highest paid athlete of any sport, topped the list with expected total earnings of $260 million.
The former Manchester United player’s contract with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, which he joined in January, is thought to be worth $200m while his endorsement portfolio that includes the likes of Nike and Jacob & Co is estimated to be worth $60m annually, according to Forbes.
Lionel Messi was ranked second on the list with expected total earnings of $135m, boosted by his move to MLS club Inter Miami.
Messi is the first MLS player to appear in the top 10 since David Beckham in 2012.
Neymar rounds off the top three with $112m in total earnings after signing for Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League in August.
The influence of the Saudi Pro League is clearly seen in Forbes’ list with four players – Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mané on the top 11 earners worldwide.
Forbes revealed that the four Saudi Pro League players’ combined income counts for more than half of the $995m collectively earned by all 11 players in the rich list.
Kylian Mbappé comes in next on the rankings, narrowly behind his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, with total earnings of $110m.
Manchester City’s Erling Haaland was the highest paid Premier League player with a total annual income higher than those of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and teammate Kevin De Bruyne.
Forbes said its on-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned in the last 12 months while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, licensing income and cash returns from businesses they operate.
England international and PSG striker Harry Kane with $36 million and Robert Lewandowski with $34 million make up the top 11 highest earning players.