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Highest Paid Athletes of 2021 and 2022

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Last year was a watershed moment in athletic history. In 12 months, top 50 elite global athletes’ incomes rose by 16% totalling $2.8 billion. This is fascinating considering that most household incomes in the year went down, stagnated or recorded only minimal growth. The unrelenting Covid19 pandemic seems to have not affected the salaries of athletes at the highest level.

Despite several pandemic-related shortcomings, the year ended with a series of record-breaking titles in sports, including the highest-paid female athletes in history, highest-paid NBA player, and highest-paid soccer player ever. Here are some of the athletes who made headlines with their vast incomes

Conor Mcgregor

The notorious Conor Mcgregor is a charismatic Irish Mixed Martial Artist and former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight and lightweight champion. Mcgregor is 33 years old and even though he is no longer in his prime, he managed to make $8.6 million per minute in 2021. An almost unbelievable number to consider. Most of the income came from out-of-the-ring sources such as endorsement deals.

The notorious Irish man has enjoyed a good streak in recent years. His biggest payout as a professional fighter, ironically, came when he was defeated by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match. He took home a whopping $85 million payout in the loss. This was his professional boxing debut in 2017, a match that had a significant impact on his fame.

His 2018 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov is the highest-paid pay-per-view (PPV) draw in MMA history. The fight had 2.4 million PPV buys worth $180 million. Moreover, after selling his majority stake in Proper No. Twelve Whisky in 2021, the martial artist received $150 million to add to his growing fortune. It would be an understatement to state that Conor has cleaned up in his professional fighting career.

Highest Paid Athletes of 2021 and 2022

Naomi Osaka: Highest-Paid Female Athletes of All Time

The 24-year-old tennis pro is Forbes’ highest-paid of the female athletes for 2021/2022. Osaka is the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian-American father. She is exceptional on the tennis court. She has already racked up four Grand Slam wins. Making her the first Asian player to reach the top of the singles rankings and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam tournament.

Her on-court salary of $2.3 million is a drop in the bucket compared to her lucrative endorsement deals in Japan and globally. Naomi earns over $57 million from over 20 endorsements and also owns a profitable skincare line. Her sponsors include Google, GoDaddy, LVMH, Nike, BodyArmor, Beats Electronics, Panasonic, Melco Crown Entertainment, Morinaga & Company, Sweetgreen, Wowow Inc, Hyperice, Nissin Foods Holdings, Workday, Yonex, Levi Strauss & Co, Frankies Bikinis, Tag Heuer, Levi Strauss & Co.

Lionel Messi

Messi, alias the Little Magician, is regarded as one of the most talented players in soccer history. According to Forbes, Messi ended the year with total earnings of $130 million, with 33 million coming from off-the-field sources. He was chosen to spearhead World Health Organization (WHO) anti-covid-19 campaigns in 2021.

In addition to his long-term contract with Adidas, Messi opened the first Messi store retail location in 2019. His clothing line is called The Messi Store. The athletes benefit greatly from the endorsement of brands such as Adidas, Pepsi, Konami, Gatorade, and Budweiser, among others.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo became the first of athletes in team sports to earn $1 billion in his career. The Portuguese international and Argentina national is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. In the previous year, he earned a total of $120 million.

Almost $70 million of that came from on-the-field earnings and the remaining $50 million came from endorsements. Ronaldo is the recipient of four European Golden Shoes and five of the coveted Ballon d’Or awards. He holds the record for most Champions League goals (134) and assists (42). He also holds the record for the most goals scored in the European Championship (14).

Christiano is the highest-scoring male international player in soccer. He has a long-term contract with Nike and makes a fortune from his CR7 brand in the fashion, accessories, hospitalism, and gym markets.

Honourable Mentions

Dak Prescott

  • Sport: American Football (Cowboys, NFL).
  • Age: 28.
  • Total Income: $107.5m.
  • Off-field income sources: Owner of 4 Walk-On’s restaurant’s franchises in Texas.

Lebron James

  • Sport: Basketball (NBA, Los Angeles Lakers).
  • Age: 37.
  • Total Income: $96.5 million.
  • Off-court income sources: Lifetime partnership with Nike worth $30m yearly. Investor in 19 Blaze Pizza franchises in South Florida and Chicago. He is also Blaze Pizza’s paid endorser.

Neymar

  • Sport: Soccer (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil National Team).
  • Age: 30.
  • Total earnings: $95m.
  • Off-field income sources: Endorsement deals with Puma from Nike. Set to join Fortnite cast with an in-game skin

Conclusion

The list of highest-paid athletes has seen the most dramatic changes in the previous year. Sport is a niche with incredible opportunities for top athletes, but their talent must be paired with unwavering hard work in order for them to maintain their top status.

Most people think the pay offered to athletes is ridiculous, but given the industry’s massive global viewership and huge profit margins from advertising and merchandising, it only makes sense to reward the best talent.

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