Soccer is consistently classified as the most popular sport across the globe. Forbes has published its annual list of the 100 highest-paid athletes, and soccer players were prevalent athletes on this list. These are the top-five highest-paid soccer players of 2018.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Andres Messi is an Argentinian soccer player. The FC Barcelona forward is the highest-paid soccer player, earning $111 million and taking home $84 million in salary and winnings, and another $27 million in endorsements. He is the second-highest paid athlete in the world.

When he was 13, 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. The contract promises an annual salary and bonus of at least $80 million.

Messi has a lifetime deal with Adidas. Other deals include Gatorade, Pepsi, and Huawei. A Messi theme park, called Messi Experience Park, is scheduled to open in 2020 in Nanjing, China.

Messi calls Castelldefels, Spain, home. He is married with three kids.

Key Takeaways

  • Lionel Andres Messi is an Argentinian soccer player. The FC Barcelona forward is the highest-paid soccer player, earning $111 million in 2018.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, the second-highest-paid soccer player, earned $108 million—$61 million in salary from Real Madrid and $47 million in endorsements.
  • Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is the third-highest-paid soccer player, making $90 million.
  • Gareth Bale, who plays for Real Madrid, clocks in at number four earning $28.6 million through salary and $6 million from endorsements.
  • Paul Pogba, who plays midfield for Manchester United, is the fifth-highest-paid soccer player making $29.5 million.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Forbes ranked Cristiano Ronaldo as the second-highest-paid soccer player and the third-highest paid athlete overall in 2018. Ronaldo took home $61 million in salary and winnings from Real Madrid and $47 million in endorsements, for a whopping total of $108 million. The Portuguese athlete has been a forward on the Real Madrid and Portugal national teams.

Although Ronaldo exited the 2018 World Cup early, he remained in the public eye when news broke that he transferred to Juventus on a four-year deal. The transfer fee totaled $140 million. Ronaldo's net annual salary will reportedly be $35 million. However, it also appears as though Ronaldo's gross pay will amount to $64 million for the 2018–19 season.

In 2017, Ronaldo scored 44 goals in 43 matches and was honored with a fifth Ballon d'Or. He also won his fifth Champions League title.

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


The expected price per ticket for the Messi Experience Park, which will feature soccer-themed exhibits and live performances with holographs and robotics.

3. Neymar

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who is almost exclusively called by just his first name, is the third-highest-paid soccer player, making $90 million. Of that, he makes $73 million in salary and winnings and $17 million from endorsements. In August 2017, Neymar signed a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazilian forward works with global sponsors, including Nike, Red Bull, and McDonald's. He was the first soccer player to have his own custom Air Jordan sneakers made by the Swoosh.

4. Gareth Bale

Making $34.6 million, Gareth Bale clocks in as the fourth-highest-paid soccer player. He earns $28.6 million through salary and winnings, along with $6 million from endorsements.

Gareth Bale's transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in 2013 was among the 10 most expensive in the soccer club.

The Real Madrid forward is originally from Wales. In May 2018, Bale scored two goals, including an iconic bicycle kick, to lead his team to a third consecutive Champions League title. In October 2016, he signed a contract extension with the club through June 2022. Bale has an endorsement deal with Adidas through 2020.

5. Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba is the fifth-highest-paid soccer player, making $29.5 million, which consists of the $25 million he makes through salary and winnings and the $4.5 million he earns from endorsements.

Originally from France, Pogba plays midfield for Manchester United. His five-year contract pays an annual salary of at least $20 million. Pogba has a 10-year deal with Adidas.