Modern sport is big business, thanks largely to increased TV rights and advertisement revenue. Reaping the benefits of this increased income are some of the largest sports contracts resulting in athletes earning more than some nations’ GDPs.
Modern sport is more than a game, it’s an industry. Tourists flock to nations for events and matches, broadcasters pay billions to show them and advertisers relish the consistency with which they can attract thousands of eyeballs.
As a result of sports becoming big business, athletes are now collecting unbelievable sums for their services. In recent years it feels like many sports have seen record contracts signed but who’s the king of the rich regarding 2024’s largest sports contracts?
We’ve poured over the numbers, cross-checked figures and figured out the top 10. A small editor’s note: All figures have been converted into Australian dollars and we’ve excluded endorsements from our calculation, as accurate projects of those sums are hard to come by.
We also opted to not include Shohei Ohtani given his decision to defer much of his contractual revenue for later down the track meaning that, while on paper it’s one of the richest deals ever, in actuality low-level athletes are earning more than LA Dodgers star.
The 10 largest sports contracts in 2024
10. Justin Herbert
Sport: American football
Contract value: $85.9 million AUD
If there were one AFC West quarterback many would expect to feature on the highest paid list it’d be Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City’s gunslinger doesn’t feature though. The AFC West is represented by Los Angeles Chargers QB, Justin Herbert.
In August 2023, Herbert signed a then-NFL record contract extension, landing him a mouthwatering amount of coin over the next five years, including the near-$86 million AUD he’ll collect in 2024.
9. Joe Burrow
Sport: American football
Contract value: $98.7 million AUD
Herbert’s record NFL contract didn’t last long before the Cincinnati Bengals doubled down on their commitment to stellar quarterback, Joe Burrow. Handed a five-year deal valued at approximately $418 million AUD, Burrow is undeniably the highest-paid current NFL player.
In four seasons, Burrow’s already led the Bengals to a Super Bowl, which they lost, and been one of Patrick Mahomes’ greatest adversaries. Cincinnati believes they’ve landed on a winner with the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, that much is evident. Only time will tell if their investment will prove fruitful.
8. Kylian Mbappe
Contract value: $119 million AUD
Kylian Mbappe is one of the best footballers on the planet. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-him quick and exceptionally quick-witted and fleet-footed in and around the box, few can do what the Frenchman can.
Subject to interest from constant Saudi Arabia, Mbappe isn’t likely to leave PSG for anywhere unless it’s Real Madrid, a move which seems more a matter of when not if. For now, he’s rooted in Paris where he’s the main man tasked with delivering European glory to the French capital.
=6. Canelo Alvarez
Contract value: $152 million
One of the finest ever boxers, Canelo’s recently signed deal with Premier Boxing Champions is set to earn him a pretty penny in 2024. Devastatingly quick and deceptively agile, few boxers possess the skill of the 33-year-old from Guadalajara, evidenced by the sky-high fee his services demand.
=6. Jon Rahm
Contract value: $152 million AUD
No one expected him to do it, but he did. Defying expectations, Jon Ramm, winner of the 2023 Master’s and PGA loyalist, defected to LIV Golf in the back half of 2023, collecting himself one of the largest sports contracts in recent memory along the way.
Acquiring the Spaniard’s signature is a major coup for the disruptive LIV Golf tournament, which is backed by the boundless riches of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
5. Phil Mickelson
Contract value: $159.5 million
Another benefactor of the immeasurable wealth available to Saudi Arabia’s PIF and the rise of LIV Golf, Phil Mickelson’s contract is massive. The six-time major winner, who’s entering the twilight of his storied career, collects golf’s third-largest pay packet as a result of his defection from the historic PGA Tour.
4. Dustin Johnson
Contract value: $161 million AUD
It’s a hat-trick of LIV Golf benefactors! Former world number one, Dustin Johnson, signed for LIV Golf back in 2022. Since then, his whopping contract has meant finances have simply been an afterthought, allowing his focus to hone in on golf and practically golf alone.
3. Karim Benzema
Contract value: $198 million AUD
If there’s one positive for Karim Benzema to take from his move to Al-Ittihad it’s the sums he’s set to earn if he sticks it out for the length of his contract. Having achieved all there is to achieve in European football, the Frenchman traded Real Madrid for the Gulf in mid-2023, lured to the region by an irresistible contract figure.
Whether he remains at Al-Ittihad for the entirety of 2024 is unclear. The Frenchman, one of his generation’s greatest strikers, is reportedly unhappy with his Saudi situation and is said to have one eye on a return to familiar pastures.
Contract value: $270 million AUD
Brazilian footballer Neymar’s career has been underwhelming, which is incredible to think considering all he’s achieved. At 18, anyone who laid eyes on him understood he possessed the necessary talent to rival Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. For a brief window, he did, until he didn’t.
Amongst other things, injuries have been the brilliant Brazilian’s undoing. Since signing for Al Hilal on a two-year deal reportedly worth $541 million AUD, injury problems have returned. While away on international duty the Brazilian ruptured his ACL, meaning the Saudi club is parting with money for nothing until he’s fit and firing.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Contract value: $330 million AUD
One European Saudi expat who’s neither unhappy nor unhealthy and why would he be? Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with Al Nassr is 2024’s largest sports contract. A serial winner, and one of football’s finest ever players, the Portuguese forward’s goalscoring hasn’t dried despite his scenery change.
A staunch supporter of the Saudi Pro League’s project, Ronaldo looks destined to see out his career at the Gul; happy and handsomely rewarded.