Lionel Messi, the star forward and captain of the Spanish football club Barcelona and the Argentinian national team, is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, ahead of fellow stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. His pay is $126 million per year, which consists of $92 million in salary and $34 million in endorsement deals. His net worth is a reported $400 million. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Messi and his teammates agreed to a 70% wage cut, costing Messi an estimated $50 million in pay. This pay cut reduced his salary to $72 million and his total income for the year to $104 million.

Key Takeaways

  • Lionel Messi earns $126 million per year, of which $92 million is salary and $34 million is endorsements.
  • He is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.
  • A lifetime deal with Adidas is worth an estimated $12 million per year.
  • In 2016, Messi and his father were found guilty of evading €4.2 million in taxes and ordered to pay significant fines.


At 5 feet, seven inches tall, Lionel Messi is among the shortest footballers to play the game. He was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 24, 1987. His father was a supervisor at a steel mill, while his mother had once worked at a magnetic coil factory.

Messi played youth football on a team called The Machine of '87, named after the year in which he and all his teammates were born. They lost a single game in the four years they played together. At age nine, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. The local football club, Newell's Old Boys, picked up the tab for treatments but stopped after costs mounted. So at the age of 13, Messi and his father moved to Spain, where Barcelona agreed to pay for his medical care.

Messi played in Under 14s and advanced through the ranks. He made his first official appearance in October 2004. His breakout came in the 2005-06 season, when he helped the team win key matches against Juventus and Chelsea. Messi has made more than 700 appearances for the club and scored more than 600 goals. He has won the Ballon d'Or six times and the Golden Shoe six times, and has been the top scorer in the Champions League six times. Messi has captained the Argentinian national team at the World Cup four times. In 2008, he played at the Beijing Olympics, taking home the gold medal.

Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates agreed to a 70% wage cut to help their football club during the coronavirus pandemic. The cut cost Messi an estimated $50 million in pay.

Contracts and Endorsements

Messi is the highest-paid soccer player in the world, thanks to lucrative contract and endorsement deals. In November 2017, he agreed to a contract extension that would see him play for Barcelona through the 2020-21 season. The buyout clause for the contract was set at €700 million.

He has a lifetime deal with sports brand Adidas that is worth an estimated $12 million per year. Other endorsement deals include Gatorade, Huawei, and MasterCard. In 2017, Spanish company Mediapro Exhibitions announced plans to develop a €170 million theme park called the Messi Experience Park in Nanjing, China.

Tax Evasion

In July 2016, a court in Spain sentenced Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi to 21 months in prison for three counts of tax fraud. Messi and his father were accused of evading almost €4.2 million in taxes by using offshore shell companies in Belize, Uruguay, and Switzerland to hide sponsorship income. In addition, the court order Messi to pay a fine of €2 million and his father to pay €1.5 million.

Neither of the men had been expected to serve time, as under Spanish law sentences of less than two years can be served as probation. Messi appealed and Spain's Supreme Court upheld the conviction. The court, however, reduced Jorge Messi's sentence to 15 months after he paid the owed taxes. Both sentences were lifted after Messi paid €250,000 and his father paid €180,000.