How Soccer Players Get Paid

As the most popular sport in the world, it is no surprise at all that the best soccer players get paid very well. Players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have accumulated wealth that very few athletes can even come close to matching.

A simple search online will show some estimates on just how much these top athletes make per year, but exactly how do soccer players get paid?

Soccer players main source of income comes from their contract with the club team, but other wealth contributors such as endorsements, contract bonuses, playing for their country and more all add up. The best players in the world can make millions of dollars off the pitch, depending on how much they grow their brand.

Club Team Contracts

Just about every soccer player is going to make most of their money from their club team contract. With different soccer clubs and leagues all around the globe, these contracts vary quite a bit. The best players in the world can expect to earn tens of millions of dollars per year, while lower-tiered professionals might only make a few thousand dollars.

Players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and more are all making tens of millions of dollars just off of their club team salary. They all play for elite teams globally, so they earn money not only for the standard schedule, but any other tournaments in competition as well.

What drives up the price? There is no salary cap in soccer, so it becomes a bidding war between the richest clubs for certain players. In a sport like the NFL or NBA, there is a limit to how much a player can earn. A soccer player could theoretically sign for $1 billion if a club owner felt they were worthy of that contract.

Not All Club Contracts Are Worth Millions

A professional soccer player at the top definitely brings in money, but what about those who are playing at lower levels? Even in Major League Soccer, a lot of players are making fewer than $100,000 per year. That might still be a healthy living for the average person, but it is hardly the luxurious athletic life most fans think of with professionsals.

Pay for women’s players in leagues around the world take a pretty huge hit as well. The top players are definitely earning great paydays, but the league minimum in the National Women’s Soccer League is just $20,000. Some leagues pay even less than that, making life as a professional soccer player more of a part-time job than anything.

Since there is so much demand for soccer around the world, it should be no surprise that there are many different levels to professional play. Players are continually changing teams and looking for a lucrative contract while they are in peak playing perform.

Bonuses

Performance bonuses are a huge part of contracts for different types of soccer players. This allows teams to offer a little less money to players, and players can earn their money by gambling on themselves. Sometimes it works out very well for individuals, but it can burn players as well if they underperform or suffer an injury.

Bonuses for top players include things like winning a championship, scoring a set amount of goals, making a set amount of appearances, and more. Major awards almost always come with a huge bonus as well, as it brings a lot of notoriety to the club and makes a player that much more valuable on the open market.

It is hard to find a lot of specifics on bonuses for all the different players out there, but some have been revealed. Some players will get a bonus just for starting a game, while others need simply a combination of goals and assists that will help lead the team to victory.

Loyalty bonuses are also included at times with a new contract, especially with smaller teams that might understand that their player will be courted by many others when the time comes. This keeps a player wanting to continue suiting up for their team, and playing at a high-level. Simply playing in the games and putting forth a strong effort can lead to big paydays. This way, clubs are not paying a huge amount of money for a player who is not in the lineup and attracting fans.

National Team Payment

Playing on a national team is not only done out of pride, but for money purposes as well. Each country pays its players slightly differently. There are obvious bonuses such as making the World Cup, placing in the World Cup, and even winning the World Cup.

The top players are not going to make that much money, relatively speaking, compared to their club deals. That is why some top players will not play in international competitions unless they are critical. They are worth more to their club team, and they owe it to them to be healthy enough to play.

For players not on huge contracts, playing for the national team can be pretty good for their total earnings. Players also get top-level training facility, travel, meals, and more by playing for their national team as well.

There is no true mandate when it comes to paying out players in international competition, so winning the World Cup for Brazil might pay out differently than winning the World Cup for Spain. This is not factoring in all the new endorsement deals that come with being called a World Cup champion.

Endorsements

Soccer players at the top of the sport get thrown countless endorsement opportunities all the time. They have their main sponsors that pay them millions of dollars, but there are also plenty of smaller endorsement deals out there for those wanting to capitalize.

Most of the best players have their most lucrative endorsement deal with a sports company like Nike or Adidas. While each club has a specific deal with a clothing manufacturer, players are still allowed to wear their own cleats, as well as other pieces of clothing off the pitch. For example, Lionel Messi has a deal with Adidas, but his club team, FC Barcelona, is endorsed by Nike.

The very best players will get huge endorsement deals, and even have their own line of clothing with a company. They will be featured in many different forms of advertising, and they truly become star athletes with those companies during that time.

Advertisement Deals

Endorsement deals do not stop there, as players will also land deals with huge companies looking to push their product to different types of clients. It can be an endorsement deal with a restaurant or beverage company, all the way to a company selling watches. Soccer brings in many different demographics, so this allows for a lot of different marketing opportunities for those players who commanded.

Endorsement deals are not as limited to the top players either. Smaller endorsement deals might not pay in the millions, but they are still available at a worldwide, national, and regional level. Even if it is something as small as a local business deal in a smaller city, it is still a form of payment for those players who might need it the most.

Those same clothing and shoe companies might also offer smaller deals to players to grow their brand. In some cases, the endorsement deal might be free Nike cleats and gear each year, but it is one less thing for players have to worry about.

Appearances

Along the same lines as endorsement deals, appearance fees can range quite a bit depending on the caliber of player. Having a top soccer player show up for a speech or event can cost a lot of money, but getting just a standard player without much fanfare might not cost much at all.

These appearances that are paid are done outside of working with a club or national team. Those appearances are usually covered by the total amount of payment a player receives.

How Much Do The Top Players Make?

It is hard to get a truly accurate answer with just how much money the top players make, but there are ways to make some decent assumptions. Salaries are pretty easy to track down, so it then comes down to finding how much they make in endorsements per year.

Keep in mind that all these numbers are rough estimates as of right now. Things can change in a hurry for the top players, and promising youngsters can start to make a lot of money when they sign a new deal as well. Here are 5 examples of how much top players earn each year, according to forbes.

PlayerClub ContractEndorsementsOtherTotal Earnings
Messi$33.6M$32M$38.4M$104M
Ronaldo$34.8M$45M$25.2M$105M
Neymar$41.3M$25M$29.2$95.5M
Pogba$18.7M$5.5M$4.3M$28.5M
Mbappe$19.6M$13M$1.4M$33.8M

It is pretty easy to see that players who are not only talented, but have been around a while, have a perfect combination of salary and endorsements. It takes a while for the younger players to start to move up the ranks, but there is no doubt that Mbappé is one player on his way to seeing quite a bit of success financially.

Are Top Players Paid Too Much?

Like in many sports, the top players in soccer are receiving a ton of money each year when everything is added up. Some players are earning right around $100 million per year when it is all said and done. Compare that to players who are on minimum salaries in lower-tier leagues, and the pay discrepancy seems pretty significant.

One thing that helps balance out pay discrepancy is that there are so many different soccer leagues out there for players to pursue. If a player feels like they are not properly compensated with their current club, they can explore other opportunities when the time allows it. Most soccer deals are not very long, so a player does not have to sit in a tough situation where they are waiting out a contract for years and years.

The biggest payment issues seem to come at the international level, and also when looking at the differences between men and women soccer. Those who set the payment plans justify their numbers by looking at the amount of revenue teams bring in. No payment structure is ever going to be perfect, but the debate will continue as long as certain sides feel underpaid.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired early at 21 due to injuries - which lead me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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