Once again, the world of football has been turned upside down. Lionel Messi’s status as Barcelona’s crown jewel has never been in doubt – until now – in an ever-changing landscape where superstars come and go.
Following an acrimonious exit from his boyhood club in a cash-rich transaction that will have thrown accountants into a tailspin over the previous few weeks, the 34-year-old has rubber-stamped a move to PSG. The beautiful game is a multi-billion-pound industry, with the world’s finest football players raking in huge sums with every touch of the ball.
2021 list of the World’s Highest-Paid Footballers
1. Lionel Messi (£960,000 )
Many consider Messi to be the best player in history, and he earns the most money in the world to go along with his brilliance. We’re still a little squeamish about calling him ‘the PSG ace’ or ‘the former Barcelona guy,’ but the Argentinian superstar has gotten a hefty pay raise as a result of his move to PSG.
He was about to sign a deal with Barcelona worth almost £1.1 million per week before taxes, but the Spanish club was unable to finalize the agreement due to La Liga’s financial restrictions, forcing him to quit the club where he had spent his entire career. Messi has agreed to a base salary of £25 million per year after taxes. Before taxes, this equates to around £50 million a year.
2. Neymar (£606,000)
Neymar, the face of Brazilian football, boosted his bank account in 2017 by joining PSG from Barcelona for a world-record £200 million.
The French club, which has gathered a roster of superstars in their effort to win the elusive Champions League championship, pays him more than £30 million per year before bonuses. He earns substantially less money from sponsors than the next two men on the list, which could be a symptom of his polarizing personality.
3. Luis Suarez (£575,000)
Suarez, a former Barcelona player, has replaced Griezmann at Atletico Madrid. Suarez was controversially transferred by Barcelona for a modest amount, but he made them pay dearly when he led Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title at the first attempt.
He scored 21 goals in 32 La Liga games to help Atletico win the league and, unlike some of Barcelona’s big-name players, he has proven to be worth every penny of his salary. As the 34-year-old approaches the twilight of his career, this is likely to be Suarez’s final big payday.
4. Gareth Bale (£500,000 )
Gareth Bale, formerly the most expensive player in football history, was frozen out by Real Madrid and sent back on loan to Tottenham Hotspur for the 2020/21 season, where he is trying to make an impact on Jose Mourinho’s side.
Bale was one of Adidas’ most well-known players, but with only one year left on his lucrative Bernabeu contract, he is set to drop out of the top ten in the near future.
5. Kylian Mbappe (£410,000 )
Kylian Mbappe is widely projected to take up the mantle of football’s preeminent superstar in the years to come, as the leader of the next generation. The 22-year-permanent old’s move from Monaco to PSG in 2018 was the second most costly in club history, and he has already scored over 100 goals for the club.
He cemented his place among the world’s finest players by scoring four goals in France’s 2018 World Cup victory, but he faltered at the postponed Euro 2020, missing a crucial penalty kick that sent France home.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (£385,000 )
Apparently, being the world’s most popular athlete isn’t enough to get you on the rich list. Cristiano Ronaldo may have the most Instagram followers, but one footballer dwarfs him in annual revenue.
With a goal for Juventus against Napoli in the 2021 Italian Super Cup, he became the all-time leading goalscorer in football history, with 760 goals for club and country. He has continued to score despite a high-profile return to Manchester United this summer.
7. Kevin De Bruyne ( £385,000)
De Bruyne just signed a new contract with City, propelling him to the top of the Premier League’s salary rankings. He earns more than his teammate Raheem Sterling and new Manchester City player Jack Grealish, who both earn roughly £300,000 per week. The silky Belgian’s contract with City was extended until 2025, effectively keeping him in for the rest of his career – a huge comfort for City supporters and Pep Guardiola.
8. David De Gea (£375,000)
The Manchester United goalkeeper is the world’s highest-paid goalkeeper, which puts him at ninth place on the list. The majority of David de Gea’s annual wages come from his Old Trafford deal, which pays just under £400,000 per week. Following a series of gaffes in the 2019/20 season, the Spaniard’s future has been called into doubt, but he has recovered in the face of stiff competition from Manchester United academy graduate Dean Henderson.
9. Antoine Griezmann ( £356,000 per week )
Antoine Griezmann’s long-awaited transfer from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona in 2019 was the sixth most expensive transfer in history, but the versatile forward flopped at the Nou Camp and is now on loan at Atletico Madrid.
The Frenchman is said to have taken a 40% pay reduction to return to Atletico in the summer and will be anxious for a long-term deal. He made headlines last year after performing Fortnite’s ‘Take the L’ dance to celebrate a goal in the 2018 World Cup final, and he also founded his own eSports squad.
10. Robert Lewandowski ( £350,000)
Robert Lewandowski was rewarded for his ruthlessness in front of the goal by winning the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award in 2020. The 32-year-old attacker is the Bundesliga’s all-time top foreign goalscorer and shows no signs of slowing down.
Lewandowski’s services cost Bayern Munich a significant portion of their wage bill each season, and he’s a social media sensation with 3.9 million TikTok followers.