Cristiano Ronaldo tops Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes

George Ramsay, CNN | 5/17/2024, 12:10 p.m.
Cristiano Ronaldo may be in the twilight of his career, but the soccer star still tops Forbes’ list of the …
Ronaldo has been ranked as the world's highest-paid athlete by Forbes for the fourth time. Mandatory Credit: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

 Cristiano Ronaldo may be in the twilight of his career, but the soccer star still tops Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes thanks to his huge wages in Saudi Arabia.

According to Forbes’ list, which was released on Thursday, Ronaldo earned $260 million over the last 12 months, $200 million from his club contract with Al-Nassr and $60 million in off-field earnings.

The 39-year-old headed the rankings for the fourth time ahead of golfer Jon Rahm, who joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour in a lucrative three-year deal in December, and Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi.

Rahm’s total earnings are $218 million, Forbes calculated – $198 million through playing wages alone – while Messi’s are $135 million, more than half of which ($70 million) are off-the-field payments.

Ronaldo, one of four Saudi-based soccer players on the list of the 50 highest-paid athletes, made his debut for Al-Nassr in January 2023. This season, the club is set to finish second in the Saudi Pro League behind Al-Hilal.

For the first time, the top-10 highest paid athletes have each earned more than $100 million, combining for a record $1.38 billion, according to Forbes.

Also included in the top 10 are the NBA’s LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Steph Curry, as well as soccer players Neymar, Karim Benzema – both of whom represent Saudi clubs – and Kylian Mbappé.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the highest-earning NFL player at number 10.

No women have ranked inside the top 50 of Forbes’ list for the first time since 2019, while only Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, and Naomi Osaka have done so since 2012.

Forbes’ methodology involves conversations with industry insiders, news reports, and salary databases like Spotrac, and all figures are converted to US dollars under the current exchange rate.

Forbes’ 10 highest-paid athletes in 2024:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer) - $260 million
  • Jon Rahm (golf) - $218 million
  • Lionel Messi (soccer) - $135 million
  • LeBron James (basketball) - $128.2 million
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (basketball) - $111 million
  • Kylian Mbappé (soccer) - $110 million
  • Neymar (soccer) - $108 million
  • Karim Benzema (soccer) - $106 million
  • Steph Curry (basketball) - $102 million
  • Lamar Jackson (football) - $100.5 million