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Nigerians missing among world’s 10 highest-paid athletes

The world’s 10 highest-paid athletes earned a record-breaking $1.38 billion between May 2023 and May 2024, as the influx of Saudi money has propelled athlete earnings to new heights this year.

According to Forbes’ annual ranking, each of the 10 highest-paid athletes earned more than $100 million for the first time in the ranking’s history, while four of the top eight, including the number one and two, got their largest paycheck from an entity backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Cristiano Ronaldo was once again the world’s highest-paid athlete over the last 12 months, making an estimated total of $260 million on and off the pitch.

That’s largely thanks to his annual salary of $200 million at Al Nassr, which has made him the global figurehead of the PIF-backed Saudi Pro League. Spanish golfer Jon Rahm came in second this year after yielding to the lure of PIF-backed LIV Golf in December 2023.

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Having been a vocal critic of LIV before, Rahm ultimately signed a $350 million multi-year deal with the Saudi golf tour, half of which he received upfront, according to Forbes’ estimates.

Aside from the growing influence of Saudi Arabia on professional sports, this year’s ranking once again highlights the global appeal of football/soccer, as perhaps no other sport produces global superstars at the rate that football does.

With Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Karim Benzema, five of last year’s highest-paid athletes were football players, with three of the five playing in the Saudi Pro League.

Interestingly, Kylian Mbappé is the only one of the bunch that is still playing at the highest level of the game, while the remaining four are approaching the end of their illustrious careers, taking one last big paycheck to advocate the game away from Europe’s top five leagues.

Felix Richter writes for Statista

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Felix Richter
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