The star forward for Spain's FC Barcelona and captain of the Argentinian national team, Lionel Messi was the highest-paid athlete in the world after boxer Floyd Mayweather in 2018, according to Forbes. In 2017, Messi took home $111 million including over $80 million in earnings from a contract extension with FC Barcelona and an additional $27 million from endorsement deals. His total net worth reportedly stands at $400 million.

Key Takeaways

  • Lionel Messi is the star forward for Spain's FC Barcelona and captain of the Argentinian national team.
  • Lionel Messi was the highest-paid athlete in the world after Floyd Mayweather in 2018, according to Forbes.
  • Messi was born in Argentina and was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) at the age of 11.
  • At age 13, Messi joined Barcelona's youth academy, La Masia. He later debuted at age 17.

Career

Messi was born in Argentina to working-class parents. Messi's father was a factory steelworker and his mother was a house cleaner. Messi's talent for soccer was obvious when he was young, but at the age of 11, he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). This condition stunts growth and the treatment is expensive because it involves the use of human growth hormone.

Mess's local club, River Plate, wanted to sign him, but they would not pay for his medical treatment. Messi, instead, was offered a contract with Barcelona's youth academy. Coach Carles Rexach had watched Messi at a trial and had written him a contract, including payment for his treatment, on a paper napkin. At age 13, Messi moved to Spain with his father to play at Barcelona's academy, La Masia.

Messi moved through the academy quickly and made his debut on the field at age 17. From there, Messi had one of the most successful careers of all time. Having spent his entire club career at Barcelona, he won the Spanish League nine times and the Champions League four times. In all, he scored 383 goals in 418 games. He is also a record-tying five-time recipient of the prestigious Ballon d'Or award and a record-setting five-time recipient of the European Golden Boot. 

Messi was the top-scoring player for the 2017 to 2018 season with 47 goals in all matches and he currently holds the record for goals scored for the Argentinian national team.

Contracts and Endorsements

Messi has a permanent lifetime deal with Adidas (ADDYY) that will likely make him more than $12 million a year. He also has a contract extension with FC Barcelona through the 2020 to 2021 season, for which he is paid $33 million per year. These deals effectively make him the highest-paid soccer player in the world. Messi also has or had endorsement deals with companies such as Pepsi-Cola (PEP) and Huawei. China is reportedly planning to name a theme part after the soccer player in 2020, according to ESPN.

Tax Evasion

In July 2017, Messi and his father, Jorge, were convicted of tax fraud by the Spanish courts. Both were sentenced to 21 months in prison. Spanish tax authorities claimed that Messi's earnings from deals with Pepsi-Cola, Proctor & Gamble (PG), and Adidas were directed to offshore accounts in South America for the purpose of avoiding income tax.

Messi appealed the case and the Spanish Supreme Court later convicted the duo, sentencing them to prison. In Spain, however, those with a short enough prison sentence (under two years) typically do not serve the time and are placed on probation instead. As a result, Lionel's 21-month sentence and Jorge's 15-month sentence worth replaced with fines. Messi and his father were ordered to pay 2 million and 1.5 million euros, respectively.