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The 10 highest paid athletes in the world right now earned an historic amount in the last year

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Highest paid athletes, Canelo Alvarez

Thanks to some huge investments, particularly in football and golf in recent months, the world’s biggest sports stars have made more money in 2023 than any year in history.

To be specific, the top ten highest paid athletes made a combined AU$1.6 BILLION in 2023 alone. I guess the cost of living crisis isn’t impacting them too much.

Every year Forbes crunches the numbers for their on and off-field earnings to give an overall view of exactly how much these athletes are being paid. Figures have been converted to AUD using the current exchange rate.

Highest paid athletes | Cristiano Ronaldo
Highest paid athletes | Cristiano Ronaldo signed a mega deal in the Saudi Pro League in March 2023.

Top 10 highest paid athletes in 2023

As is to be expected, football, golf and basketball dominated the top ten highest paid athletes chosen sports — with only one boxer serving as an outlier in the list. This is due, in part, to major contracts like Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr deal, the huge investment in LIV Golf by the Saudi Arabian soverign wealth fund PIF and Paris Saint-Germain’s and Lionel Messi’s massive tourism ambassador role for the gulf state.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Sport: Football

Earnings: $202.9 million ($68.6 million on-field, $134.3 million off-field)

Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year deal where he’ll earn €200 million (A$315m) per season, enough to top the rich list. Could another of the greatest all time footballers soon join Ronaldo in the Middle East and perhaps land himself on the very top of next year’s list?

2. Lionel Messi

Sport: Football

Earnings: $194 million ($97 million on-field, $97 million off-field)

There is growing speculation of where Lionel Messi might next play football, once his time at PSG most likely ends this summer. What we know for for is that he’s going to make a boatload of cash, wherever he goes next.

Highest paid athletes
Highest paid athletes | Lionel Messi makes lots of money

3. Kylian Mbappe

Sport: Football

Earnings: $179 million ($149.2 million on-field, $29.8 million off-field)

There were recent discussions around Mbappe’s future at PSG, where he makes all kinds of money. He’s one of the best footballers on the planet and he’s paid like it too.

4. LeBron James

Sport: Basketball

Earnings: $178.3 million ($66.4 million on-field, $111.9 million off-field)

Lebron James is the greatest scoring baller in the history of the NBA and arguably the greatest to ever do it. Along with that, he’s carefully crafted and cultivated a brand that’s lent itself to cash generation. He makes money as well as he scores buckets.

5. Canelo Alvarez

Sport: Boxing

Earnings: $164.1 million ($149.2 million on-field, $14.9 million off-field)

Alvarez is the highest paid boxer in the world, by some margin. The Mexican just claimed yet another win in his May 6 showdown with Londoner John Ryder, dominating and defending his stronghold on the super middleweight division; holding onto the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF titles.

6. Dustin Johnson

Sport: Golf

Earnings: $159.6 million ($152 million on-field, $7.5 million off-field)

Dustin Johnson joined other big names on the LIV Tour, making insane amounts of money to play less golf than before.

7. Phil Mickelson

Sport: Golf

Earnings: $158 million ($155 million on-field, $2.98 million off-field)

While he’s still playing very good golf, this one is more name value. The Mickelson brand meant the figures on his LIV contract were astronomical.

8. Stephen Curry

Sport: Basketball

Earnings: $149.8 million ($72.2 million on-field, $77.6 million off-field)

Curry continues to rise up the greatest all time basketballers list and also the highest paid athletes ranks.

Highest paid athletes
Highest paid athletes | Steph Curry is rising

9. Roger Federer

Sport: Tennis

Earnings: $141.9 million ($150,000 on-field, $141.7 million off-field)

Roger Federer retired in September 2022, but the cash is still rolling in.

10. Kevin Durant

Sport: Basketball

Earnings: $133 million ($65.8 million on-field, $67 million off-field)

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