Cristiano Ronaldo still leads the list of the highest paid footballers in the world thanks to his lucrative annual salary in Saudi Arabia.
Football is a modern revenue-spinning sport that generates massive levels of income. As a result, the earnings of the highest paid footballers in the world has grown exponentially over the years.
The English Premier League enjoyed a boom in the last two decades due to its ability to pay high transfer fees and high wages.
However, the Saudi Pro League is now the richest league in world football. Saudi clubs spent almost $1 billion to acquire 94 overseas players during the 2023 summer transfer window.
The Saudi Arabian top flight has become the new destination for footballers interested in earning a mouth-watering salary, thanks to the vast amount of money on offer.
In this article, FootballOrbit presents you with the top 10 highest paid footballers in the world 2023/24.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo ($260m)
Team: Al Nassr
Cristiano Ronaldo led the influx of superstars to the Saudi Pro League after his shocking transfer to Al Nassr in January 2023. He has since been joined in Saudi by the likes of Neymar, Karim Benzema, N’golo Kante, Ruben Neves, Sadio Mane amongst several other superstars.
The Portuguese reportedly earns $200 million annually at Al Nassr, which includes wages and other financial incentives from commercial agreements facilitated by his club.
Off the pitch, CR7 takes home an estimated $60 million annually from lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Jacob & Co, Clear, Herbalife and Binance.
2. Lionel Messi ($135m)
Team: Inter Miami
Lionel Messi shunned a switch to Saudi Arabia and an emotional return to Barcelona in order to join David Beckham’s MLS franchise, Inter Miami, on a free transfer from PSG.
To lure the Argentine to America, Inter Miami reportedly offered Messi a share of revenue from league partners Adidas and Apple TV — as well as an option to buy a stake in the club when he retires.
His annual off-field earnings has now reached $70 million after his move to the United States.
Furthermore, Messi is the first MLS player to be among the top 10 richest footballers in the world since David Beckham in 2012.
The World Cup winner has already made a huge impact on Inter Miami’s fortunes. His presence has boosted ticket sales and social media followings for not just his club, but the entire league.
3. Neymar ($112m)
Team: Al Hilal
To persuade Neymar to leave PSG and move to the Saudi Pro League, Al Hilal made him an irresistible offer.
The Brazilian star was given a mansion with staff, a fleet of luxury cars and access to a private jet, as well as bonuses for team wins and social media posts.
Moreover, he was given permission to live with his girlfriend, which is against the country’s law.
Moreso, Neymar is estimated to earn $80 million in wages. While his off-the-field endorsements with the likes of Puma, Konami and Red Bull takes his total annual income to $112 million.
4. Kylian Mbappe ($110m)
During a protracted saga during last summer transfer window, Kylian Mbappe was offered a world-record deal to move to Saudi Arabia for one season, but he opted to stay put at PSG.
There were rumours that Al Hilal offered him a mega deal worth $1 billion (including transfer fee); but the Frenchman remained in Paris.
Mbappe has slipped from No. 1 spot in the 2022 highest paid footballers list to fourth this year.
Nevertheless, he still leads all European-based players with an estimated $120 million income.
In addition, Kylian Mbappe has one of the biggest football boot deals in the world.
5. Karim Benzema ($106m)
Team: Al Ittihad
Karim Benzema brought the curtain down on his hugely successful spell at Real Madrid by leaving the Santiago Bernabeu when his contract expired at the end of last season.
Astonishingly, the 2022 Balon d’Or winner decided to join Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Ittihad on a blockbuster free transfer that will see him rake in $100m in wages.
His endorsement deals with brands like adidas and Fendi would fetch him a further $6m off-the-pitch.
6. Erling Haaland ($58m)
Team: Manchester City
Erling Haaland had been banging in goals prior to his move to Manchester City in the summer of 2022, but he took his game to a whole new level at the Etihad Stadium.
The Norwegian’s incredible 52 goals in all competitions last season led Man City to win an historic treble.
While his transfer fee from Borussia Dortmund wasn’t very hefty (£52m), the striker earns huge wages — $46m annually.
Moreover, Erling Haaland has a lucrative deal with Nike and graced the cover of the EA Sports FC 2024 video game.
7. Mohamed Salah ($53m)
Mohamed Salah is currently the highest paid African footballer, as he slightly edges out his former Liverpool teammate, Sadio Mane, on this list due to his expected income OFF THE PITCH.
The Egyptian nearly became the most expensive signing in the Saudi Pro League after Al Ittihad reportedly offered a staggering $190 million transfer fee; only for Liverpool to immediately reject it on deadline day.
Off the pitch, Mo Salah has a huge boot deal with Adidas, as well as deals with other brands like Pepsi and Vodafone.
8. Sadio Mane ($52m)
Team: Al Nassr
After a successful spell in the Premier League with Liverpool, Sadio Mane joined Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in 2022.
However, after a difficult season in Germany, the Senegalese winger sealed a mega-money deal to join Saudi Pro League side, Al Nassr.
The deal makes him the highest paid African footballer in the world in terms of ON-THE-PITCH wages.
Off the pitch, Mane has several endorsement deals, with the most prominent being with boot makers, New Balance.
9. Kevin De Bruyne ($39m)
Team: Manchester City
Arguably the best player in the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne is currently the highest paid footballer in England.
The Belgian midfield maestro rakes in $35m annually in wages, and a further $4m outside the pitch from the likes of McDonald’s.
10. Harry Kane ($36m)
Team: Bayern Munich
Harry Kane is one of the greatest strikers of the modern era, and arguably the best striker in the Premier League in the last decade.
Last summer, he sealed an €100m transfer to Bayern Munich. The deal saw his earnings increase significantly to become the highest paid British professional footballer in the world in 2023/24.
Harry Kane earns $26m annual wages at the Allianz Arena, and $10m off the pitch. He recently signed a multi-year partnership with American sportswear company, Fanatics.
Note: This list was made in accordance with Forbes’ official data. The on-field earnings include all prize money, salaries and bonuses, while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, partnerships, image rights and cash returns from businesses they operate.