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A couple of shocks: Here are the 10 highest paid footballers of all time

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highest paid soccer players, footballs, all time

The world’s highest paid soccer players earn astonishing amounts of money.

Not just from their annual income, but of course also lucrative commercial sponsorship deals as well.

This leads to other opportunities for wealth generation, such as investment opportunities; the rich get richer.

But who has earned the most both on the field and off the field? Keep reading to find out.

ALSO READ: THE 10 MOST SEARCHED ATHLETES OF 2023 | FA CUP 2023-24 GUIDE

10 Highest paid soccer players of all time

When coming up with this list of the highest paid footballers, we took into account various sources, including what Forbes estimates their wealth to be.

To qualify for the list, these football players had to have played the game professionally. It also takes in known annual earnings and projected off-field earnings – even if not sourced from the game.

10. N’Golo Kante ($105 Million)

Notable Teams: Chelsea, Al-Ittihad

After winning the World Cup with France, the Champions League with Chelsea, and a Premier League title with both Leicester and the Londoners, the defensive powerhouse N’Golo Kante joined fellow Frenchman Karim Benzema on a free transfer to Al-Ittihad for the 2023/24 season.

In the process, his impressive bank balance swelled significantly to the point that he may well appear on the Forbes list in the next few years should he remain in Saudi Arabia.

9. Thomas Gravesen ($121 million)

Notable Teams: Everton, Celtic

Gravesen was a tough-tackling, bald-headed midfielder known for his never-say-die attitude. While his annual income as a footballer was decent, it was helped significantly when he moved to Las Vegas to become a high-roller.

Rumour has it he earned $100 million during his time on the circuit and through investments. He also lived in a mansion, counting Nicholas Cage and Andre Agassi as his neighbours.

8. Dave Whelan ($221 millon)

Notable Teams: Blackburn, Crewe

Back in the 1950s and 1960s Dave Whelan was an accomplished full back. However, when injury curtailed his career, he set his mind on the business world.

He developed JJB Sports into one of the UK’s biggest sports retailers. Whelan also became chairman of Wigan Athletic, overseeing their rise to the Premier League and their notable FA Cup triumph against Manchester City.

7. Kylian Mbappe – ($250 Million)

Notable Teams: Monaco, Paris Saint Germain

Mbappe, highest paid soccer players
French superstar Kylian Mbappe is one of the games biggest superstars

Kylian Mbappe – along with Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham – is arguably the most exciting young talent in the game right now.

However, having already won the World Cup and a domestic quadruple in the French league at the age of just 24, reports linking him to Al Hilal in an unbelievable $700 million per year deal is starting to get real traction. So, if that comes off, it won’t be long until he is in the top three on this list.

6. Karim Benzema ($210 Million)

Notable Teams: Real Madrid, Al-Ittihad

Karim Benzema had his choice of Saudi clubs when he left Spain. But the 2022 winner of the Ballon d’Or also reportedly shied away from interested parties like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Bayern Munch to join the Saudi Arabia money train.

While this surprised observers, the $4 million a week he is believed to be getting was no doubt a deciding factor.

karim benzema, Al Ittihad
Karim Benzema now plays at Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.

5. Neymar JR ($300 Million)

Notable Teams: Paris Saint Germain, Al Hilal

Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr. is another player who recently left PSG to head to the Middle East for the Saudi Pro League – as part of a huge deal that netted the French club around $90 million in transfer fees. (In the process, he also secured big agent fees for his representatives).

As he is only 31, the former Champions League winner has a few years left in him. So, he could well find himself higher on this list in a few years time.

4. David Beckham ($370 million)

Notable Teams: Manchester United, Real Madrid

As a popular sport, football was much poorer when David Beckham retired. Undoubtedly one of the best passers of the ball and exponents of a free kick to have ever graced the field, Becks had a mastery of flight, angles, and trajectory like no other.

Now a part owner of Inter Miami, his annual income is significantly boosted by a big portfolio of off-field ventures and sponsorship deals.

3. Lionel Messi ($600 million)

Notable Teams: Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, Inter Miami

Season after season, the legend that is Lionel Messi has wowed the world with his footballing genius. After finally winning the World Cup with Argentina in 2022 and enjoying a successful career with Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain, Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami when his PSG contract expired.

On-field soccer earnings aside, he also has a number of brand deals that have netted him a substantial fortune.

Highest paid soccer players
Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the footballs greatest ever player

2. Cristiano Ronaldo ($1 billion)

Notable Teams: Real Madrid, Manchester United, Al Nassr

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most decorated players in the world, having won 33 trophies, including the English Premier League with Manchester United, La Liga, Seria A, and both the UEFA European Championships and Nations League.

In what was huge sporting news, the five-time ballon d’Or winner left Real Madrid to become the highest-paid soccer player in the world – reputedly earning $200 million a year – in the Saudi league for Al Nassr in a two-year deal as a player and seven-year deal overall.

Along with his various sponsorship deals, including with Nike, his total earnings are thought to have made him a billionaire. He’s so rich, he even has his own private jet!

Saudi Arabia football, Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo earns insane money in Saudi Arabia.

1. Mathieu Flamini ($28 Billion)

Notable Teams: Arsenal, AC Milan

You might be surprised to see Flamini come in at the top spot on this list as the highest-paid player because, on the field, his career earnings weren’t even close to matching that of the other top players in the world.

However, he appears at number one because after hanging up his boots, he founded GF Biochemicals – the first company ever to produce Levulinic acid, a fuel derived from plant waste that can create plastic. This company is believed to be worth a whopping $28 billion. So his off-field earnings far surpasses any other footballer to have played the game.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about the highest paid soccer players.

It’s mind-blowing to think how much these athletes are earning or have earned. But with the sums of money being offered in Saudi Arabia in the past year to players on a two-year contract or three-year deal, this list will likely look very different in the next decade – given how many other football players are bound to be lured there.

Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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