The popularity of soccer has allowed the sport to grow considerably over the years. The global game brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year, so being at the top of the sport definitely pays well.
how much do soccer players make? The top players in the world can make tens of millions of dollars every single year just from their club team salary. This is not even including endorsement deals, appearance fees, national team pay, and more. On the other side of things, lower level professional players can barely make a living wage, earning around $20,000 per year.
What The Top Players In The World Make
Top athletes in every sport are going to make a lot of money. In a sport like soccer, with no salary cap and plenty of leagues and teams trying to secure the rights to the best players, it becomes a bit of a bidding war. That ends up working out very well for those who are in demand.
The pay can be shockingly high for some of the very best players in soccer right now. Club teams are paying them a lot of money, and getting endorsement deals from high paying sponsors only builds that money up even more.
Who are the best of the best right now at making money? Here is a look at just how much money these top players make.
Lionel Messi Salary
|Player||Club Contract||Endorsements||Bonuses & Other||Total Earnings|
Lionel Messi makes the bulk of his money from FC Barcelona. He signed a four-year contract with the team in 2017, and he makes just under 100 million based on salary and bonuses alone. That is more than enough money for most athletes, but he still makes a significant amount away from the field.
The biggest endorsement deals for Messi include Adidas, Pepsi, Gatorade, and Huawei. Adidas pays him the most, but the specifics of that deal are not public. He does have a lifetime sponsorship deal with the athletic apparel company, so they are taking great care of one of their flagship players.
Messi is starting to get up there in age, but he probably has at least one more major payday coming down the road from a club. It might not always be with the only club team he has played for, but the demand for tickets alone will cause a bidding war when the time comes.
Cristiano Ronaldo Salary
|Player||Club Contract||Endorsements||Bonuses & Other||Total Earnings|
It can be debated on whether Messi or Ronaldo is the best player in the world right now, but as far as earnings are concerned, Ronaldo has to settle for second place. That is by no means a letdown, as the Portuguese star is still making over $100 million per year when adding everything up. His deal with Juventus pays out of a lot of that money, but his overall marketability has allowed him to snag some great deals as well.
To counter Adidas, Nike signed Ronaldo to a lifetime deal and giving him plenty of player-specific gear. Nike has so many athletes under they are umbrella, and Ronaldo is as recognizable as any of them.
Other deals for Ronaldo include Herbalife, EA Sports, American Tourister, and more. He is an international icon in a lot of ways, and he will have the opportunity to stay with many of these companies after retirement as well.
|Player||Club Contract||Endorsements||Other||Total Earnings|
Paris Saint-Germain paid $263 million to acquire Neymar from Barcelona. This is the most expensive transfer fee in sports history, and while some debated it at the time, the team feels like it was worth the investment. Neymar’s club contract earns him $41 million every year, and endorsement deals push him very close to $100 million.
Nike has yet to sign him to a lifetime deal, but he does have an 11-year contract with the company that he signed back in 2011. It will be interesting to see when that deal runs out if he will sign for more money with Nike, or shop around for more endorsements.
Companies like Red Bull and MasterCard have also seen the marketability of Neymar, especially in his native Brazil. He is the most recognizable player worldwide playing in France, and a win in the next World Cup could catapult him to the top of his list. Brazil has always treated their World Cup leaders very well, so his endorsement boost alone could take him to #1 on this list in two years.
The Middle Tier
The big three in soccer make around three times as much as anyone else in the game. That is a massive discrepancy in the sport, but it also shows what star power can do. Some younger players have a chance to move up in the ranks, but they will need their salaries to go up a bit more.
Here are some examples of what players earn that are just below the very best players in the world. (according to forbes)
|Player||Club Contract/Winnings||Endorsements||Total Earnings|
Guys like Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann, Eden Hazard, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez, and Luis Suarez are all getting up there in age. While they make considerable money right now, it is likely that they are at their max.
Keep an eye out on Kylian Mbappé as perhaps the guy most likely to jump into that top tier at some point in his career. The 21-year-old already has a World Cup title to his name, and he plays on one of the most recognizable club teams in the world in Paris Saint Germain. He has already set records as the most expensive teenager in soccer history, and he could demand even more when his time comes in the future.
Average Pay In Top Soccer Leagues Around The World
The top players get all the headlines, but the average pay drops down considerably for a typical player in one of the top soccer leagues around the world. Playing in leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and more will only pay out a couple of million dollars, on average. This is still a lot of money, and players who have been around for a while can demand $5 million per year or more in many cases.
Here is a breakdown of the average annual player salary for each team in Bundesliga (2020 season)
|Team||Average Salary (Annually)|
|FC Union Berlin||$680K|
|SC Paderborn 07||$420K|
Even within top soccer leagues, there is a lot of pay discrepancy. The amount of money clubs like Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and more can spend is so much more than teams fighting off relegation. Clubs that are bouncing between the first and second league in a country can find their finances being pretty hard to predict.
That is why so many of the top players will first breakout on a smaller club, and then eventually make their way to some place that has the money to spend. One recent example of this is Gareth Bale. He started with Southampton, moved for more opportunity and better money with Tottenham Hotspur, and then jumped to Real Madrid.
If a team is relegated, their finances take a hit to the point that they end up losing some of their top players shortly after. Not only do they need the money since they will not be bringing in nearly as much, but some of their top players only want to play in the top leagues.
Pay In Smaller Soccer Leagues Around The World
There are only so many spots in the top leagues around the world, which means that professional soccer players are looking for jobs on just about any continent. Some leagues still pay pretty well for established talent, while others are making less money than a typical person working a job 40 hours a week.
To take everything into perspective, here are some player salaries for the MLS club Toronto FC (2019).
As you can see, there is a huge pay gap between the players in Toronto FC. A player like Michael Bradley earns more in a single month, than Julian Dunn earns in a whole year.
Major League Soccer in the United States is one of the best paying leagues that is not considered the top level at this point. Some players in the league could play on top clubs anywhere, but the overall level is just not the same.
Teams usually have the money to spend a considerable amount on a few talented players. For everyone else, the pay can range from a few hundred thousand dollars, to under $100,000. About 1/3 of the league is under that $100,000 threshold, which surprises a lot of sports fans who are used to seeing much bigger paychecks for professional athletes.
Does Pay Vary By Position?
Certain positions are at a premium compared to others in soccer. The goal scorers are usually the highest paid, and the ones who become faces of a club. It is not a surprise that they earn, on average, about 1.5 to 2 times as much as equal level of players at different positions.
Defenders make the less, on average, followed closely by goalkeepers. It pays to be a high-end goalkeeper, but the pay evens out after that top tier. Some of the backup goalkeepers make very little, since they are rarely used except in emergency situations.
Midfielders make a little more than average, but than the overall average in most leagues, come in second behind forwards.
Does Pay Vary By Age?
Young soccer players are generally on favorable deals for their club. That is because they are not established stars just yet, and their level of play is inconsistent at times.
Most of the time, the prime money-making years for players is in that 23 to 29-year-old range. The numbers are skewed a bit right now, as Messi and Ronaldo headline the over-30 crowd. The prime of soccer players, in general, is getting older, so average pay might evolve as well.
What Does Pay Look Like For Women?
Women’s soccer is growing worldwide, but it still has a long way to go in generating even close to the same amount of revenue. Because of that, women soccer players do not make nearly the same amount of money. You can read more about how much female soccer players earns in this post.
Certain leagues and federations are making strides to change that, and the United States seems to be the biggest target right now. Although the Women’s World Cup generates much less money than the Men’s World Cup, the women in the United States won the latest title, while the men did not even qualify. This puts the two teams on much more even footing as far as revenue from TV deals, endorsements and more within the United States.
What Is The Future For Money In Soccer?
Soccer is as healthy, across the board, as it has ever been. The top leagues are still making a ton of money each year, which leads to the highest-paid players being compensated more and more. As long as the demand is there, more clubs around the world will start paying huge price tags for talent.
Expect the wage gap between men and women players to close some. The game is growing too much for fans to not continue supporting.
Also, expect older players to extend their careers for at least one more payday. Modern medicine is allowing guys to stay healthy enough to play at a high level into their mid-30s and beyond.