Soccer is consistently classified as the most popular sport in the world. Accordingly, soccer players are some of the most highly-paid athletes. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 caused athlete incomes to drop for the first time in four years, but soccer players still earned some outrageous amounts. These are the five highest-paid soccer players of 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • FC Barcelona forward Lionel Andres Messi is the highest-paid soccer player in the world, earning $126 million in 2020.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, the second-highest-paid soccer player, earned $117 million—$70 million in gross salary from Juventus and $47 million in endorsements.
  • Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is the third-highest-paid soccer player, making $96 million.
  • Kylian Mbappé, the fourth-highest-paid soccer player, earned $42 million.
  • Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah is the fifth-highest-paid player with $37 million in 2020 earnings.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Andres Messi is an Argentinian soccer player. The FC Barcelona forward is the highest-paid soccer player in the world during 2020, earning $126 million total. Despite higher club earnings than Ronaldo—Barcelona paid Messi over $90 million last year—Messi earns $13 million less in endorsements.

When he was 13 years old, Messi moved to Spain after FC Barcelona agreed to pay for his medical treatments. He eventually led the club to championships. In 2012, he set a record for most goals in a calendar year. In November 2017, he agreed to a contract extension with Barcelona to stay with the club through the 2020–21 season. However, Messi's time at Barcelona may come to an end soon. Although Messi wanted to leave the club at the end of the 2019-20 season, the promise of a legal dispute over the terms of his contract resulted in the club legend deciding to remain with the team for another year.

Messi has a lifetime deal with Adidas. Other deals include Gatorade, Pepsi, and Huawei.

Messi lives in Castelldefels, Spain with his wife and three kids.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is the second highest-paid soccer player in 2020. Ronaldo took home $70 million in gross salary and bonuses after his title-winning season with Italian club Juventus. Endorsement income adds another $47 million for a whopping total of $117 million. The veteran forward has also played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the Portuguese national team.

After nearly a decade at Real Madrid, Ronaldo transferred to Juventus in 2018, signing a four-year deal with the club. The transfer fee totaled $140 million.

In 2020, Ronaldo scored 31 league goals during Juventus' victorious Serie A campaign. This is his second league title after his move to Turin. These titles add to Ronaldo's lengthy trophy cabinet, which boasts five Ballon d'Or trophies and five UEFA Champions Leagues.

Ronaldo has a lifetime contract with Nike worth up to $1 billion. His other deals include Herbalife, EA Sports, and American Tourister.

3. Neymar

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, usually known as Neymar, is the third highest-paid soccer player, making $96 million. According to French outlet L’Equipe, the Brazilian player makes $3.45 million a month before taxes. After playing bonuses and incentives, this income reportedly grows to $78 million annually. When $18 million in endorsements are added to his earnings, Neymar’s income totals $96 million gross. 

Although the Paris Saint-Germain playmaker struggled with injury during the 2019-20 season, he still contributed 19 goals and 12 assists in all competitions, leading PSG to a French league title and the Champions League final.

The Brazilian forward works with global sponsors, including Red Bull and McDonald's. He was the first soccer player to have his custom Air Jordan sneakers made by Nike. The Jordan brand's frequent collaborations with Paris Saint-Germain have raised the reputation of the team as a global brand.

In 2020, Neymar signed a massive endorsement deal with German sportswear giant Puma. Before signing with Puma, Neymar had been sponsored by Nike.

4. Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappé, the France and PSG star, earns $2.13 million per month according to L'Equipe. His yearly salary after bonuses is nearly $28 million. With $14 million in endorsements, Mbappe makes about $42 million a year gross. 

Mbappé was in great form during the coronavirus-shortened season. Eighteen goals and seven assists in only 20 Ligue 1 games led PSG to their seventh title in the last eight years. Mbappé starred in PSG’s run to the UEFA Champions League final, with five goals in 10 games.

Mbappé signed a long-term deal with Nike and graces the cover of EA Sports’ FIFA 21 video game. Mbappe is also endorsed by watchmaker Hublot.

5. Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah reportedly earns $265,000 in salary per week. With incentives and bonuses included, his annual salary comes out to $24 million a year. Salah also earns $13 million in endorsements, bringing his total to $37 million gross. 

In the 2019-20 season, Salah scored 23 goals in all competitions, with 19 of those goals coming in the English Premier League. He also added 13 assists, 10 of which occurred in the league. His contributions were key to Liverpool’s successful title campaign—their first league trophy in the Premier League era. 

Salah is endorsed by sporting goods company Adidas and telecommunications network Vodafone Egypt.