The Highest-Paid Footballers in the World

In 2018, FIFA will award $400 million to the 32 teams in the World Cup, with the winning team earning $38 million. Some of that money will trickle down to the players. However, most players make the bulk of their money outside of their national teams.

With football fever spreading thanks to the World Cup, the players are rightfully in the spotlight. But that bright light widens enough to shine on the incredible amounts of money flowing through global football, too.



For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA, football’s global governing body, reported revenue of $4.8 billion. Its profit for that four-year cycle: $2.6 billion. And that just covers the international competition.

Pinning down exact income can be tricky. Generally, players earn salaries and bonuses from their club teams and from team performance, and they often earn money from endorsements. There are, however, gray areas in terms of salary reporting. Final numbers can be unclear, as can bonuses. The figures here also dependent on currency conversion rates at the time of publication.

This list is based on the best available information from Forbes and other sources surrounding some of the world’s best football players, and how much they’re being paid in salary and bonuses in 2018.


Lionel Messi



Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after scoring a goal against Arsenal in a Champions League match in 2010.Daniel Ochoa de Olza / AP Photo

Pay: $84 million

Club: Barcelona

National team: Argentina

Position: Forward

Age: 30

The incredibly talented Argentinian forward not only earns a huge salary and garners hefty bonuses. He also has large endorsement deals that make his already big income even bigger.

What would you expect for one of the best players in the game — ever.


Neymar


Brazil's Neymar controls the ball during a training session.Felipe Dana / AP Photo

Pay: $73 million

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

National team: Brazil

Position: Forward

Age: 26

Neymar has played for two of the best clubs in Europe, his current Paris Saint-Germain squad and Spanish powerhouse Barcelona.

He’s also one of the best players on one of the best World Cup teams, Brazil.

And he shows no signs of slowing down.


Cristiano Ronaldo


Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo does tricks with the ball at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.Victor R. Caivano / AP Photo

Pay: $61 million

Club: Real Madrid

National team: Portugal

Position: Forward

Age: 33

Over the years, Ronaldo has become one of the most internationally famous players ever. He scores a ton of endorsement deals as a result.

Rumors surround his next move. He’s said to be unhappy at Real Madrid and could earn even more next season with a move to another team.

Gareth Bale


Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring during a Spanish La Liga match versus Celta.Paul White / AP Photo

Pay: $28.6 million

Club: Real Madrid

National team: Wales*

Position: Forward

Age: 28

* Wales didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Bale is one of the highest paid and best players in the game, but Wales, his national team, isn’t competing in the 2018 World Cup. It didn’t qualify.

He’s made quite an impact on Real Madrid, though, and continues to be a major player in the sport.


Ezequiel Lavezzi


Ezequiel Lavezzi celebrates a goal during his time playing with Paris Saint-Germain in France in 2013.Thibault Camus / AP Photo

Pay: $26.8 million

Club: Hebei China Fortune

National team: Argentina*

Position: Forward

Age: 33

*Not participating on Argentina's team in the 2018 World CupA key player for the Argentinian team in the 2014 World Cup, Lavezzi has had an incredibly successful career. This year, however, he’s not joining his teammates on the World Cup pitch.

That hasn’t stopped him, though, from drawing a huge salary from his Chinese club.


Oscar


Brazil's Oscar lines up before a friendly against South Korea.Lee Jin-man / AP Photo

Pay: $25.9 million

Club: Shanghai SIPG

National team: Brazil*

Position: Midfielder

Age: 26

* Not participating on Brazil's team in the 2018 World Cup

Oscar dos Santos, known simply as Oscar, used to play in the European leagues but moved to China for a huge salary bonus.

Though his yearly salary wasn’t at the same level as his signing bonus, he remains one of the highest paid players in the game.


Paul Pogba


Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates a goal during an English Premier League match against West Ham United.Dave Thompson / AP Photo

Pay: $25 million

Club: Manchester United

National team: France

Position: Midfielder

Age: 25

Though he’s young, Pogba recently hinted that this could be his last World Cup appearance with France.

He’s been a secret weapon and a key player on every team he plays for and is extremely exciting to watch.

Kevin De Bruyne


Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium (right) challenges for the ball during his time playing for VfL Wolfsburg in 2015.Martin Meissner / AP Photo

Pay: $22.3 million

Club: Manchester City

National team: Belgium

Position: Midfielder

Age: 26

Though he’s used to being a superstar, the athlete recently admitted he’s fine with other players outshining him on the field.

Even if his teammates succeed and gain in popularity, this solid and well-paid athlete isn’t going to drop off this list anytime soon. He’s that good.

Alexis Sanchez


Alexis Sanchez celebrates a goal during his time playing in Spain for Barcelona in 2012.Martin Meissner / AP Photo



Pay: $22.3 million

Club: Manchester United

National team: Chile*

Position: Forward

Age: 29

* Chile didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Sanchez has been watching the World Cup from the sidelines after his national team failed to qualify for the competition.

But that doesn’t stop him from being one of the most talented – not to mention well-compensated – players in the sport.

Wayne Rooney


Wayne Rooney celebrates a victory against Manchester City during his time with Manchester United.Clint Hughes / AP Photo

Pay: $22 million

Club: Everton

National team: England*

Position: Forward

Age: 32

* Retired from national team before the 2018 World Cup

Though he’s not competing in the World Cup this year, Rooney is no stranger to the competition.

The veteran, however, recently announced he will be trying something new; he’s moving to the U.S. and will be playing for D.C. United.

How the move reflects his total compensation remains uncertain at the time of publication. It will likely be much less moving forward, given the budgets and salary structure of U.S. clubs.

Thiago Silva


Thiago Silva, left, controls the ball during a Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Basel.Christophe Ena / AP Photo

Pay: $21.4 million

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

National team: Brazil

Position: Defender

Age: 33

Thiago Silva plays on the same club and national teams as Neymar, another top-earning player higher up on this list.

Though the two don’t always see eye to eye, they’re both powerhouses on powerhouse teams.

Graziano Pellè


Italy's Graziano Pellè scores during a World Cup qualifying match in 2016.Ariel Schalit / AP Photo

Pay: $21.1 million

Club: Shandong Luneng

National team: Italy*

Position: Forward

Age: 32

* Italy didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Another European player who has made his way over to China, Pellè didn’t compete in this year’s World Cup. The Italian squad failed to qualify, but Pellè might not have made the team anyway.

But he’s still going strong and a delight to watch on his Chinese club team.


Hulk


Hulk, right, wins the ball during a Champions League match in 2014 when he played for FC Zenit.Martin Meissner / AP Photo

Pay: $21 million

Club: Shanghai SIPG

National team: Brazil*

Position: Forward

Age: 31

* Not participating on Brazil's team in the 2018 World Cup

How strong is Brazil’s 2018 World Cup squad? The impressive force of athleticism known as Hulk didn’t make it.

He remains, however, a dominant player in China.


Axel Witsel



Belgium's Axel Witsel controls the ball during a game against Wales.Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP Photo

Pay: $20.9 million

Club: Tianjin Quanjian

National team: Belgium

Position: Midfielder

Age: 29

Witsel is yet another footballer who spends most of his time playing in China (and getting paid very well to do so).

He’s a key component of a very powerful Belgian World Cup 2018 team.


Ángel Di María


Ángel Di María, then with Real Madrid, reacts after kicking the ball over the goal.Alex Gallardo / AP Photo

Pay: $20.6 million

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

National team: Argentina

Position: Midfielder

Age: 30

The Argentinian has been one of the highest-paid athletes in the sport for a while.

Along with Messi, he’s working to help Argentina beat its 2014 World Cup performance. It’s a tall order. The team reached the 2014 finals before falling to Germany.


Kylian Mbappé


France's Kylian Mbappé controls the ball during a World Cup qualifying match between France and The Netherlands in 2017.Christophe Ena / AP Photo

Pay: $20 million

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

National team: France

Position: Forward

Age: 19

The youngest player on this list, Mbappé’s just getting started.

The French player has been lucky enough to play club ball in his native France, though his current focus is helping lead his national team in the World Cup.


Luis Suárez


Barcelona forward Luis Suárez celebrates during an International Champions Cup game versus Chelsea.Damian Strohmeyer / AP Photo

Pay: $19.9 million

Club: Barcelona

National team: Uruguay

Position: Forward

Age: 31

The top-tier forward is the all-time leading scorer in Uruguayan national team history.

When he’s not attempting to build on that record in the 2018 World Cup, he plays in Spain alongside Messi for Barcelona.


Mesut Özil


Mesut Özil celebrates after scoring a goal in a 2014 World Cup qualifying match between Germany and Faroe Islands.Martin Meissner / AP Photo

Pay: $19.1 million

Club: Arsenal

National team: Germany

Position: Midfielder

Age: 29

The technically strong playmaker is used to starting matches but was relegated to the reserves for his national team, Germany. Now that the team has bounced out of the tournament early, perhaps his coach is having second thoughts.

When he’s not representing his country, he’s earning a healthy paycheck playing for Arsenal in England.


Edinson Cavani


Uruguay's Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring against Venezuela during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match.Matilde Campodonico / AP Photo


Pay: $18 million

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

National team: Uruguay

Position: Forward

Age: 31

Another powerful Uruguay national team player who is getting some serious business done at the World Cup.

He plays alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé for his club team, Paris Saint-Germain.


Gerard Piqué


Barcelona's Gerard Pique reacts after scoring during a Champions League match.Manu Fernandez / AP Photo

Pay: $17.5 million

Club: Barcelona

National team: Spain

Position: Defender

Age: 31

He’s not only one of the most exciting and well-paid players in the sport, he’s also an animal lover that won over hearts with a very simple act. The Spanish footballer stopped a game to help a confused bird get to safety.

Plus, he’s been with the superstar Shakira for a while, so it’s safe to say the pair is probably used to the good life.


Yaya Touré


Ivory Coast's Yaya Touré, right, challenges Zambia's Isaac Chansa during an African Cup of Nations match.Themba Hadebe / AP Photo

Pay: $17.1 million

Club: Manchester City

National team: Ivory Coast

Position: Midfielder

Age: 35

The veteran has retired from international football, but he’s still been engaged with World Cup 2018, offering commentary online and on television.

He’s currently between clubs but expects to sign with a new squad soon.


Sergio Agüero


Manchester United's Sergio Agüero, right, competes with Crystal Palace's James McArthur during an English Premier League match.Tim Ireland / AP Photo

Pay: $17 million

Club: Manchester City

National team: Argentina

Position: Forward

Age: 30

Agüero, like some of his teammates, has hinted that this World Cup may be his last.

No matter what his future may hold on the international stage, he certainly earns a good amount playing for his club, Manchester City.


James Rodríguez



Colombia's James Rodríguez controls the ball during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match.Martin Mejia / AP Photo

Pay: $16.8 million

Club: Bayern Munich

National team: Colombia

Position: Midfielder

Age: 26

One of the most explosive and exciting players in the sport, Rodríguez is a leader on his club team, German power Bayern Munich, and on the Colombian national team during the World Cup.


Antoine Griezmann


Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring during a Europa League match.Matt Dunham / AP Photo

Pay: $16.7 million

Club: Atlético Madrid

National team: France

Position: Forward

Age: 27

Though there are rumors of a transfer, Griezmann currently plays in Spain during the club season.

The incredibly skilled French forward earns a high salary thanks to his consistency and awesome play-making abilities.


David Silva


Spain's David Silva, foreground, celebrates scoring a goal against Russia.Bernat Armangue / AP Photo

Pay: $15.9 million

Club: Manchester City

National team: Spain

Position: Midfielder

Age: 32

Silva is impressive not only for his incredible athletic ability, but he can – and does – play multiple field positions.

The versatile player makes his teams more dynamic, and, as a result, he earns a hefty paycheck.