Football's Richest Players 2015
Is there any doubt that we are living in a golden age for football? Has there been any generation to match the outrageous talents displayed week in and week out by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
That question, of course, is a matter for debate. There have been plenty of great footballers down the years and every generation has its shining talents. Football is all about opinions.
But one area in which there is no room for doubt is football's finances. Never in the long history of the game has there been so much money involved as there is right now, and never have players been so well rewarded for their talent.
A global audience of billions, super-lucrative TV deals, and the top clubs' never-ending competition for the very best talent mean that this is without a doubt a golden age for footballers' finances. The average Premier League wage in 2015 is a cool £2.3 million. For the international stars of Europe's elite clubs even that figure is small change. The list of the highest earning footballers makes jaw-dropping reading. Here is a 2015 rich list.
Net worth: €210 million
Cristiano Ronaldo has a knack for coming out on top. Football's most recognisable and most outrageously talented star is also its highest earner. The 2014 Ballon d'Or winner enjoyed significant add-ons to his €18 million annual contract at Real Madrid for lifting the Champions League and the Club World Cup in 2014, but his off-the-field endorsements are even more lucrative. Deals with Nike, Toyota, Emirates, KFC, Soccerade, Samsung, Herbalife, Castrol, Emporio Armani, Konami and Spain's Banco Espirito Santo amounted to another €25 million in 2015 alone. With a property portfolio of €30 million and his own business interests starting to take off, Cristiano tops the list.
Lionel Messi's rivalry with Ronaldo extends beyond their goalscoring feats. Messi is Ronaldo's closest challenger in the rich list as well as the goal charts. Issues with the Spanish tax authorities may cost him a few million in 2016 but Messi's serial endorsements combined with his vast Barcelona contract - rumoured to be the biggest in football - should ensure that he does not have to start looking down the back of the sofa any time soon. Notable sponsorships and endorsements include EA Sports, adidas, Gillette, Dolce & Gabbana, Samsung, Head and Shoulders and Gatorade. He also boasts a substantial property investment portfolio.
Net worth: €135 million
Neymar may not have had a great World Cup on the pitch in 2014, but commercially he was the tournament's out and out winner. As the face of Brazilian football, Neymar Jr pulled in a cool €37 million in endorsements in the run up to the tournament. Needless to say his marketability has dipped since, but with a playing contract at Barcelona believed to top €17 million and a clean-cut profile that marketing men dream of Neymar continues to pull in serial sponsorship deals. Volkswagen, Nike, Unilever, Santander and Red Bull are amongst his stable of big name partners.
Net worth: €105 million
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a striker who knows how to make the most of any opportunity that comes his way. And that sharp-eyed instinct marks Swedish international's life away from the pitch as well. Zlatan may not be the biggest wage-earner in the game, but his head for business certainly puts him up with the competition. His best-selling book, I am Zlatan, earned him €8 million alone. The Swedish international also boasts an extensive international investment property portfolio, including an apartment block in Manhattan. He is also careful to maximise his sponsorship value by restricting the number of deals he commits to. He has deals with Volvo, Nivea, Xbox and Dressman.
Wayne Rooney is in the happy position of being the face of English football. With the Premier League enjoying yet another surge of sponsorship money, Rooney's status as England and Manchester United captain make him the go-to man for a corporate tie-in. He has deals with Nike, Samsung and Harpur Collins which together are valued at €5.4 million. But as a long-term high earner at United it is Rooney's annual salary of €18.9 million that is the largest contributor to his coffers.
Net worth: €96 million
Kaka takes sixth spot in football's rich list. The 2007 Ballon d'Or winner has been amongst the game's highest earners for a decade. His four years at Real Madrid were worth €35 million alone. And whilst his current salary at MLS side Orlando City is a relatively modest €6.3 million, he is making the most of the huge marketing potential that the vast American audience allows. Kaka has formal deals with Pepsi, adidas, Armani, Gillette and Samsung.
Net worth: €87 million
Samuel Eto'o boasts two Champions League titles with Barcelona and Inter Milan (in 2009 and 2010, respectively) and whilst he was well paid for his success at both clubs - his deal at Barca was said to be worth €10 million annually - it was at Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala that he enjoyed the status of the world's highest paid player. When he joined the Dagestan-based club in 2011 his salary was reported to be worth €20 million net. A more modest contract at Turkish side Antalyaspor and ongoing deals with Puma and Ford keep the readies rolling in, but to his credit, the Cameroon international is investing heavily in charity work in Africa which has dented his overall fortune.
Net worth: €85 million
Raul enjoyed 16 years as a frontline goalscorer for Real Madrid, often as the club's highest paid star. Lucrative late-career spells followed at Schalke (€14 million) and Qatari side Al-Sadd (€10 million) and the New York Cosmos (unknown) where he announced his retirement as a player in October 2015. Spain's leading international goalscorer has multiple business interests in the energy industry, including Scar Sports Europe as well as a property investment company.
Net worth: €83 million
Ronaldinho is the third Brazilian to make the top ten. The 35-year-old's highest earning days are undeniably behind him - at the time of writing he is between clubs following a brief stint with Rio outfit Fluminense. But five years as the jewel in the crown at Barcelona (2003-2008) and a ten-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth an overall €20 million mean that whatever retirement holds for the 2005 Ballon d'Or winner, he can afford to take it easy.
Net worth: €80 million
Frank Lampard, for so long a Chelsea favourite, completes football's rich list top ten. Between 2001 and 2014 Lampard was a key figure at Stamford Bridge both on and off the pitch. The Blues' all-time leading goalscorer with 147 strikes from 429 appearances, Lampard won three Premier League titles, a Champions League crown and four FA Cups. He was a Ballon d'Or nominee in 2005. His earnings of €35 million from this glittering career have been boosted by sponsorship deals with Nike and adidas and some shrewd property investments.