International superstars earn tens of millions of dollars every year, whether they compete on the pitch, the gridiron, the hardwood, or the ring. Players like Kylian Mbappé, Canelo Alvarez, Lionel Messi, and Stephen Curry are among the highest-paid athletes in 2022. These rankings are based on on-field earnings and endorsement in 2022. For the NFL, NBA, and MLB, Spotrac total-cash data is utilized, while Forbes is the source for soccer. Boxers with disclosed purse incomes are also taken into account, however, the list is only inclusive of fights contested in 2022.
Forbes names Lionel Messi the world’s highest-paid athlete for the second year in a row. The Argentine soccer star moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain this summer. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers claimed the second spot, while Cristiano Ronaldo wrapped up the top 3 list in 2022.
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Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2022
1. Kylian Mbappé ($165 million) – Football
Kylian Mbappé is the world’s highest-paid athlete. He earns $110 million on-field and $55 million off-field and has been named Ligue 1 Player of the Year in each of the past three seasons. Kylian Mbappé is the only second player to score a hat trick in a world cup final, achieving the feat in the 2022 world cup final against Argentina.
2. Lionel Messi ($130 million) – Football
He joins Adidas, Budweiser, and PepsiCo as well as Hard Rock International’s first athlete brand ambassador on a $20 million-a-year partnership deal. Messi won the Ballon d’Or in 2021 as the world’s best men’s soccer player. He has had a tougher time on the pitch recently, scoring just nine goals in 32 games for PSG last season. On the field, Lionel Messi earned a staggering $75 million. He further earned $55 million off-field in 2022 to emerge as one of the highest-paid athletes in 2022.
3. LeBron James ($126.9 million) – Basketball
He sold a stake in SpringHill, the company behind Space Jam and The Shop, for about $725 million in October. In January, he appeared in a Super Bowl commercial next to a computer-generated version of himself. James also invested in the home gym company Tonal and sports tech startups. On the field, LeBron James earned a staggering $36.9 million. He further earned $90 million off-field in 2022 to emerge as one of the highest-paid athletes in 2022.
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4. Cristiano Ronaldo ($115 million) – Football
Cristiano Ronaldo was the highest-paid player in the Premier League before he mutually terminated his contract with Manchester United. On the field, Ronaldo earned a staggering $60 million. He further earned $55 million off-field in 2022 to emerge as one of the highest-paid athletes in 2022.
Much of Ronaldo’s earning power comes from his massive social media presence. He has 690 million followers across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, giving him leverage to demand sky-high rates from sponsors such as Nike, Herbalife, and Clear shampoo. He is also an investor in Tatel restaurants, including a new location in Beverly Hills.
Now, he’s made it even bigger, with Al-Nassr sparing absolutely no expense to bring on CR7 as its face on the pitch, and in a reported ambassadorial role. With this, it will not be a surprise if Ronaldo outrightly tops the list in subsequent years with his current deal that will see him earn €200 million per season through the end of the 2024-25 campaign.
5. Neymar ($95 million) – Football
Neymar receives €700,000 per week from PSG in addition to comparable sums from his endorsement deals with Red Bull and Puma. Neymar’s on-field salary is an estimated $70 million per year. Additionally, he receives a staggering $25 million in earnings through sponsorships and endorsement deals with companies like Triller, Epic Games, Flutter Entertainment, Puma, Qatar Airways, and Red Bull, among others.
6. Stephen Curry ($92.8 million)- Basketball
No NBA player made more in salary this season than Stephen Curry. The 34-year-old signed a four-year, $215 million extension last August. He’ll make roughly $48 million on the court next season, rising to just under $60 million in 2025-26. Curry also has an FTX endorsement which includes an equity stake and NFTs in three metaverses – although he pledged to donate the earnings.
7. Kevin Durant ($92.1 million) – Basketball
The Brooklyn Nets hero, 34, brings in the majority of his cash from commercial deals and a business empire, with $28 million annually for wearing Nike trainers. He has also invested in the NFT platform OpenSea and digital fitness startup Future. On the field, Durant earned a staggering $42.1 million. He further earned $50 million off-field in 2022 to emerge as one of the highest-paid athletes in 2022.
8. Roger Federer ($90.7 million)- Tennis
The former world No. 1 made almost all of his money from sponsors such as Uniqlo and Rolex. He invested in Swiss shoe brand On, which went public in September, raising more than $600 million. Federer played his final matches at the Laver Cup in London this summer, his only appearance on the court for the season.
9. Canelo Alvarez ($90 million) – Boxing
Canelo Alvarez is boxing’s top draw, earning $40 million or more from his fights. In April, he fought Dmitry Bivol, earning $53 in the process. In addition to his involvement in the ring, Alvarez runs a taco restaurant and a successful collaboration with Hennessy. Last year, Alvarez announced plans to open a chain of petrol stations.
10. Tom Brady ($83.9 million) – American Football
Tom Brady completes our list of the top 10 highest-paid athletes in 2022. The NFL legend makes most of his money from off-field activity. Autograph, the NFT platform Brady cofounded last year, raised $170 million in a Series B funding round announced in January, and Religion of Sports, the production company he co-founded with Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and filmmaker Gotham Chopra, unveiled a content deal with Skydance Sports in March. He has also agreed to a ten-year deal worth 385.64 million with Fox Sports to become a commentator once he retires. His production company, 199 Productions, is behind the upcoming road-trip movie 80 for Brady, and he has a new clothing line cleverly named BRADY.