Of course ‘soccer’ is real football, and the world game. It is played in every country in the world, and in terms of actual players and spectators/fans is by far and away above all other (so-called) football codes in popularity, regardless of what Americans like to think concerning their code.
The top football clubs, especially in Europe, generate an enormous amount of revenue from paying fans, club clothing and memorabilia, and endorsements entered into with all manner of companies, which allows their top players to earn virtually unthinkable total amounts, especially when one remembers that 50 years ago, the ‘home’ of football – England, where leagues were first formed – had a salary cap of just 20 Pounds Sterling ($US 30) per week; Wayne Rooney’s current WEEKLY salary is equal to four times the YEARLY salary bill for the 1969 Manchester United squad, which included the legendary (Sir) Bobby Charlton, George Best and Dennis Law. Of course, having very wealthy club owners can also help.
According to authoritative sources who have researched clubs and individual players deeply, the following is a current list of the top 20 players with the highest earnings, as of 2014-2015 – only one player is from outside Europe and South America, and all their clubs are European-based. (With apologies for any unintended errors in amounts quoted!).
20. David Silva, Manchester City and Spain
Earnings: $17.3 million – Salary & Bonus: $15.8 million – Endorsements: $1.5 million , with his main sponsor being Adidas. He joined City in 2010, and has assisted the club to win two Premier League titles. His worth can be gauged by him being re-signed in August 2015, until 2019.
19. Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich and France
Earnings: $17.7 million – Salary & Bonus: $16.2 million – Endorsements: $1.5 million, the majority from Nike. Frank has been with Bayern since 2007, and his current contract runs until 2017, after which he has indicated that he may move to the US, or somewhere for a new experience.
18. Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil
Earnings: $17.8 million – Salary & Bonus: $15.8 million – Endorsements: $2 million courtesy of Nike and Nissan. The club captain is now in his fourth season at PSG, with a contract until 2018, at which point he will be 35 years old, so …
17. Frank Lampard, Manchester City and England
Earnings: $17.8 million – Salary & Bonus: $13.8 million – Endorsements: $4 million, from Pepsi and Adidas. Frank has now joined New York City until the end of 2016, with a salary approximately half of that he earned the previous season in the Premier League, in which he played for 19 seasons.
Earnings: $18.3 million – Salary & Bonus: $12.3 million – Endorsements: $6 million, Lucozade and Adidas being his benefactors. After 17 seasons in the Premier League with Liverpool, Steven has now joined the LA Galaxy in the US on an 18-month contract worth $9 million.
15. Fernando Torres, Atletico Madrid and Spain
Earnings: $18.3 million – Salary & Bonus: $14.8 million – Endorsements: $3.5 million, another partner of Pepsi and Adidas. After three not too happy seasons with Chelsea in the Premier League, Fernando’s association with Atletico has now apparently been made permanent, via AC Milan. His salary will be nowhere near as high now, though, but maybe a permanent first-team place is more than adequate compensation.
14. Robin Van Persie, Manchester United and The Netherlands
Earnings: $18.7 million – Salary & Bonus: $15.7 million – Endorsements: $3 million, with Adidas, and Pepsi. Robin has been with United since 2012, but is out of contract in 2016, when he will be 32, so at this stage his future is indeterminate.
13. Eden Hazard, Chelsea and Belgium
Earnings: $18.9 million – Salary & Bonus: $15.4 million – Endorsements: $3.5 million, with EA Sports and Nike. The Belgium midfielder is under contract until the end of the 2020 Premier League season, a significant vote of confidence in his continued ability to play at the highest level.
12. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal and Germany
Earnings: $19.1 million – Salary & Bonus: $12.8 million – Endorsements: $6.3 million, with sponsorship from Cyrus Genève, Adidas and Gatorade, Mesut is on a contract which lasts until 2018 worth $63 million – nice play if you can get it!
11. Yaya Touré, Manchester City and Ivory Coast
Earnings: $19.7 million – Salary & Bonus: $17 million – Endorsements: $2.7 million, with Puma. After five seasons with City, the Ivorian has apparently rejected a new City contract in favour of signing with Italian club Inter Milan for a rumoured $9 million playing contract, an agreement to a surprising drop if true…
10. Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Uruguay
Earnings: $19.9 million – Salary & Bonus: $15.4 million – Endorsements: $4.5 million, again with sports-shoe company Adidas, which continues to deal with Luis, despite several unsavoury biting incidents, and even Barce signed him after his latest misdemeanour at the 2014 World Cup – $17 million to play; is he that valuable?
9. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City and Argentina
Earnings: $25.3 million – Salary & Bonus: $18.1 million – Endorsements: $7.2 million, with Gillette, Pepsi and Puma. ‘Kun’s’ current contract runs to 2019, having been initially signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011. Publication of his autobiography has also been of benefit, to both his status in the game and his net worth.
8. James Rodriguez, Real Madrid and Colombia
Earnings: $25.4 million – Salary & Bonus: $21.4 million – Endorsements: $4 million, associated with Hugo Boss, Huawei, Gatorade, Pepsi, Dentics and latterly Bronzini Black, plus an recent extension with Adidas. Obviously his worth has increased considerably since his Golden Boot performance at the 2014 World Cup, as further evidenced by Real Madrid signing him for $100 million before the following season.
7. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United and England
Earnings: $25.8 million – Salary & Bonus: $19 million – Endorsements: $6.8 million, encompassing Samsung, Nike and Harper Collins, now handled by the club. Wayne’s latest contract extension for $105 million will supposedly keep him at United until 2019.
6. Radamel Falcao, Chelsea and Colombia
Earnings: $31 million – Salary & Bonus: $27 million – Endorsements: $4 million, also with Samsung, plus Puma (for five years), Gillette, Gatorade and Panini, Currently on loan from Monaco via Manchester United, Falcao may become a permanent fixture at the London club, but given his recent manoeuvring, nothing is certain except that his net worth is most unlikely to suffer.
5. Neymar, Barcelona and Brazil
Earnings: $31.7 million – Salary & Bonus: $14.7 million – Endorsements: $17 million, Nike again being one, as well as Volkswagen, Panasonic, Unilever, Gillette, Konami, and Red Bull; with this list, it is perhaps unsurprising that he is the only top player who earns more from sponsors than from playing, originating from his ‘performances’ in commercials during the last World Cup, in his home country of course. Even so, his current playing contract for five years nets him $75 million.
4. Gareth Bale, Real Madrid and Wales
Earnings: $34.9 million – Salary & Bonus: $25.4 million – Endorsements: $9.5 million: Adidas, Sony, EA Sports, and BT Sport are associated with the dynamic Welshman, signed by Real Madrid for $118 million in 2013. Regardless of future playing contracts, his most recent contract with Adidas is worth over $35 milion over six years.
Earnings: $41.8 million – Salary & Bonus: $35.8 million – Endorsements: $6 million, with Vitamin Well and perhaps naturally Volvo, but surprisingly without a boot sponsor. Previous clubs read like a ‘who’s who’ of European football, including both Milan clubs, Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona and Juventus. His ability has seen him voted the second greatest Swedish sportsman of all time (after tennis star Bjorn Borg).
2. Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina
Earnings: $70.5 million – Salary & Bonus: $48.5 million – Endorsements: $22 million, almost inevitably including Adidas with a Messi line of footwear, plus Pepsi, Gillette, Turkish Airlines, Audemars Piguet and EA Sports, Real Madrid – through Ronaldo – and Barce seem to compete for paying the highest amount to one of their players. Lionel was recently awarded the ‘Ballon d’Or’ for 2015 – his fifth – and he is currently on his seventh contract with the club, stretching to the end of 2018. He is in the hat as one of, if not the greatest footballer of all time.
Earnings: $79 million – Salary & Bonus: $52.2 million – Endorsements: $26.8 million, the major being Nike, and also including Herbalife, CR7 Underwear, Shirts & Shoes, Tag Heuer and Clear For Men. A goalscorer is always a bonus for club and sponsors, and Ronaldo has scored over 60 in all of the last five seasons for his club, averaging over a goal a game. He is presently rated the world’s most popular athlete, through Facebook and Twitter followers, and is still only 30 years old.