Inside the Elite of the Beautiful Game
Many fortunes have been made and lost in soccer, with the top players frequently demanding eight-figure contracts for their services on the pitch. Not only that, but many of the beautiful game’s finest players also earn a pretty penny from endorsements, public appearances, and business ventures, catapulting them into the stratosphere of the world’s wealthiest people. Read on to discover the seven wealthiest players in soccer and how they made their mark!
1. Faiq Bolkiah (Net worth: $20 billion)
The richest football players in the world don’t necessarily have to be the best players in the game, as is the case with soccer’s wealthiest figure: Faiq Bolkiah. Indeed, this Leicester City reserve has yet to make his full debut in England, yet his wealth easily outclasses that of any of his peers. How?
Faiq Bolkiah is the son of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, a rich businessman from the Bolkiah dynasty. The Prince is well known for his lavish lifestyle, which includes ownership of hotels in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, the latter of which is Faiq’s birthplace. His illustrious connections don’t end there, though. His uncle is the Sultan of Brunei, meaning Bolkiah may be the first ever royal midfielder! Thanks to this glamorous family background, this twenty-two-year-old is already estimated to be worth twenty billion dollars, not counting his regular income from Leicester City and his role as captain of the Brunei national team.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Net worth: $460 million)
With a salary of $31 million per year, it’s no wonder that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the richest football players – and athletes in general – in the world. This Portuguese powerhouse is widely regarded as one of the finest players in the game, but he also has a staggering media presence that has made him one of sport’s most marketable celebrities. In 2015, he boasted more than 150 million combined followers between Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and that social media presence has only continued to boom. Today, he is the most followed person on both Instagram and Facebook, with his fan page on the latter being the most followed in the site’s history.
Having grown up in a poverty-stricken home, Ronaldo has served as an inspiring rags-to-riches tale for many. Today, he is Juventus’ secret weapon and one of soccer’s most recognisable and beloved figures. No wonder he has parlayed his once-in-a-generation talent into major fame and fortune!
3. Lionel Messi (Net worth: $400 million)
Having grown up in a soccer-crazy family in Rosario, Argentina, Lionel Messi always seem destined for the beautiful game. One of the star forwards for Barcelona and his national team, he is widely regarded as one of the best players in the history of the sport, having shattered record after record throughout his trail-blazing career. It’s no wonder then that he earns one of the highest salaries in football, or that he has become one of the most sought-after brand ambassadors for the sports and leisure sector.
Messi signed one of sport’s most successful partnerships in 2006, when he became an endorser for Adidas. He has seen become their most recognisable faces, ultimately signing a lifetime contract that will see him wearing their apparel until his retirement. It has also been reported that Messi generated $216 million in revenue for the brand in 2016, a further sign of his powerful impact among fans, and a clue to how this Argentine native rose to the top of his field.
4. Neymar Jr. (Net worth: $185 million)
With a father who was also a celebrated soccer player, it was perhaps no surprise that Neymar Jr. was destined for greatness. And that’s exactly what he has achieved. He is currently the third highest goal-scorer for his national team and was the captain for their gold medal win at the 2016 summer Olympics. This perhaps explains why Neymar Jr. is responsible for the largest transfer fee in soccer history: a whopping €222 million in 2017, when he moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germaine.
It’s only natural that this success has made Neymar Jr. one of sport’s most bankable celebrities. At present, he is involved in an eleven-year contract with Nike, while he has previously endorsed Panasonic, Volkswagen, Unilever, and Santander. Having been ranked as sport’s most marketable athlete in 2013, Neymar Jr. has continued to amass considerable wealth with his work both on and off the pitch, resulting in an estimated net worth of $185.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimović (Net worth: $160 million)
Born to immigrant parents in Sweden, Zlatan Ibrahimović decided from a young age that he wanted to pursue a career in football. Today, he is one of the world’s richest football players, having played for Manchester United, A.C. Milan and Barcelona over the years. In fact, while playing at Old Trafford, Ibrahimović was pulling in a reported salary of $35 million per year. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that he has amassed a huge fortune, but it’s not just soccer that has led to his current wealth.
In addition to his football prowess, Ibrahimović has the mind of a businessman, with his commercial endeavours and investment raking in $110 million dollars. These include a sportswear brand, a line of colognes and an Android game called Zlatan Legends. He has also served as a spokesperson and endorser for Nivea, Volvo, and Microsoft, among others.
6. Wayne Rooney (Net worth: $130 million)
One of Britain’s most instantly recognisable figures, Wayne Rooney has characterised the nation’s sport with his creative and energetic style of play. With an annual salary of over £15 million, he is at the forefront of national sport, while also becoming an iconic figure thanks to his media appearances.
For six consecutive years, Rooney’s face adorned the front cover of FIFA’s UK video game releases, while he also fronted advertising campaigns for major global brands, including Nike, Nokia, Ford, and Coca-Cola. Rooney has also turned his hand to writing, receiving a record-breaking £5 million advance and royalties for a five-book publishing deal in 2006. To date, he has published three books. Thanks to these varied commercial endeavours, and his continued success on the field, Rooney remains at the forefront of British and international soccer.
7. Gareth Bale (Net worth: $125 million)
A six-time recipient of Welsh Footballer of the Year, Gareth Bale has been a leading figure in British and European soccer since his auspicious debut. Splitting his time between his national team and Real Madrid, he has amassed a personal net worth of approximately $125 million and become one of the game’s most reliable wingers. He also made history by being the subject of a then-record-breaking transfer fee of over $100 million in 2013.
This demand has made him one of the richest football players in the world, while his endorsements and social media presence have furthered his wealth. He is Britain’s second highest-paid social media sports influencer (trailing only soccer legend David Beckham), receiving $185,000 per sponsored post, and has been part of publicity campaigns for EA Sports, Adidas, and Lucozade. Bale also still finds time to use his money for philanthropic purposes, including an Ebola campaign in 2016.