Cristiano Ronaldo was the highest-earning athlete in the world in the year 2023, ahead of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and basketball legend LeBron James, according to a report from Sportico.
Ronaldo moved to Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr in January 2023, signing a contract reportedly worth an eye-watering $215 million per year. He started the trend of world-class European talents moving to Saudi Arabia, making the league uber-competitive and raising the overall standard of football in the country.
Combined with his endorsement deals, the Portuguese superstar made $275 million, putting him at the top of the list. Ronaldo earned a staggering $72 million more than Spanish golfer Jon Rahm, who occupies the second spot.
Lionel Messi, meanwhile, could only make it to third place on the list. The Argentine superstar moved to David Beckham’s newly founded club Inter Miami at the end of his Paris Saint-Germain contract last summer.
Although he had similar numbers to Ronaldo in terms of endorsement deals ($60 million), his contractual salary was much lower. Messi made a total of $130 million in 2023, which was less than half of the Portuguese superstar’s earnings.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was fourth ($126 million), followed closely by another pair of footballing superstars in Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe ($125 million) and Al-Hilal’s Neymar ($121 million).
Ronaldo has another year left on his Al-Nassr contract, which entitles him to another $215 million in salary. Meanwhile, Messi’s contract with Inter Miami runs until 2025 and has a guaranteed payout of $20.5 million, which in itself is a huge number. But it pales in comparison to his Portuguese counterpart’s remuneration.
Sergio Aguero reveals what he thought Lionel Messi was going to do before joining Inter Miami
Aguero joined Barcelona in 2021 from Manchester City on a free transfer, the same year that Messi left for Paris-Saint Germain. The former only played five games for Barcelona, netting a singular goal against Real Madrid in a 2-1 defeat, before retiring due to a medical condition.
Speaking to Mundo Deportivo, Aguero said that he refused to take the No. 10 shirt at Barca as he believed it belonged to compatriot Messi.
“As soon as Leo left, the club offered me the no. 10 shirt, I told them no. Not because I didn’t want to use it, I was no. 10 for all my clubs. But I believed that Messi was going to return,” he said.
The former Manchester City striker then outlined how he requested Barcelona to give the iconic jersey to rising star Ansu Fati instead of himself.
“http://www.sportskeeda.com/”You’re the only one who can use it, you or Ansu,’ they told me. I told them to give it to Ansu Fati, for me the no. 10 belongs to Leo, if he’s not there, nobody should use it,” Aguero added.