Stars from just three sports have eight places in the world top ten of highest-earning stars. Find out who made the list in 2021.
Table of contents
Cage fighter Conor Mcgregor tops the pile earning a massive £130 million in the past year.
But soccer giants Paris St Germain’s glittering forward line of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar feature alongside the evergreen Christiano Ronaldo.
Tennis and Formula One both have two slots in the top ten.
The superlative Roger Federer and the world’s top-ranking woman player Naomi Osaka rank alongside Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Basketball’s Giannis Antetokounmpo takes the remaining place in the rankings.
Waiting to step up to the big pay league are soccer players Mohammed Salah, Paul Pogba, Andres Iniesta and Robert Lewandowski. All earn more than £24 million a year.
What The World’s Highest Paid Athlete Earn
|Rank||Athlete||Sport||Earnings On-field||Earnings Off-field||Total Earnings|
Mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor is the world’s biggest earning sports star despite losing in the cage to Dustin Poirier at the start of the year.
In the world of no-holds-barred fighting, McGregor has amassed a £130 million fortune – not from battling opponents but from selling his Proper No Twelve Irish whiskey brand.
He handed his majority stake as the founder of the distiller to Proximo Spirits in April 2021 for an estimated £108.75 million in April 2021 after banking £15.95 from the bout with Poirier.
Aged 33, McGregor is engaged to be married with three children. He lives with his family in Kildare, Ireland.
Fans worship Lionel Messi as one of the greatest football players ever to have graced the field of play.
The diminutive Argentine broke thousands of hearts when he walked out on Spanish soccer giants Barcelona to join rivals Paris St Germain just a week ago. The debt-laden Catalan club explained they could not afford his wages.
Messi had played for Barca since 2003 and was expected to remain there until the end of his career.
During his career with Barcelona, he won the Spanish league ten times and the European Champions League four times, among many other trophies and awards.
Aged 34, Messi is in the twilight of a brilliant soccer career. He is married with three children and plans to move to Paris but retire to Spain.
Only ranking third in the 2020-21 ranking of the world’s highest-paid sports stars will rankle Christiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo vies with Lionel Messi in football’s all-time hall of fame.
With 770 career goals, he has scored more times than the legendary Pele, won as many honours as Messi and can reflect on a glittering international career that eluded the Argentine – including captaining his country, Portugal, as champions of Europe.
Ronaldo has racked up goals and honours with Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus.
He can also celebrate becoming the first team sports athlete to earn £1 billion across his career.
Also, like Messi, Ronaldo is nearing retirement but still playing at the top-level despite turning 36 years old.
Neymar lines up in a star-studded offensive line for Paris St Germain alongside Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
The Brazilian star was the world’s most expensive football signing when he moved from Barcelona to PSG for £190 million.
Despite his price tag, Neymar has never quite achieved the heights reached by Messi and Ronaldo, but aged 29; he still has many years of top-flight soccer left.
Among his honours are eight league titles in Brazil, Spain and France and a single Champions League success with Barcelona. In 639 appearances, Neymar has scored 397 goals.
His stock is on the rise as an avid video gamer. Fortnite developer Epic Games has announced that Neymar will join the game’s cast with his own skin.
Roger Federer seems ever-present in world tennis as he still wins major tournaments despite reaching 40 years old.
Dazzling on the court, Federer has won the Big Four tournaments – Wimbledon and opens in France, Australia and the USA – 20 times and triumphed once at the Olympic Games.
Federer has dual nationality from his Swiss father and South African mother.
He has earned £95 million in prize money from tennis, but his income from appearances, endorsements and other ventures dwarves this amount.
Federer could face a monster payday when his sports clothing company On goes public later in 2021.
He also has a £220 million ten-year sponsor deal running until 2028 with the Japanese designer sports label Uniqlo.
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton stands on the edge of greatness as he has equalled Michael Schumacher’s success of winning seven Grand Prix championship titles.
Racing for McLaren and Mercedes has seen Hamilton dominate the world of Formula One for the past decade.
Hamilton already holds the record for winning the most Formula One races with victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July 2021, taking him to 99 first places.
Single and aged 36 years old, Lewis Hamilton is a tax exile living in Monaco.
He was born in Stevenage, in the UK, and started his racing career driving karts.
Aged 23, Naomi Osaka ranks as the only woman and second youngest athlete with Max Verstappen on the 2021 list of highest-paid sports stars.
She is also the first Japanese and first Asian sports star to win a major tennis tournament, with four singles wins at the US Open and Australian Open already under her belt.
This year, her £3.6 million earnings are comparatively modest for an international sports star, but her blockbusting endorsements catapult her into the top ten global earner listings.
Big brands are queueing to sign her as the face of their goods and services, including Levi Strauss, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Mastercard and AirBnB.
Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was US basketball’s most valuable player in 2019 and 2020, triggering huge sponsorship deals from sportswear firms like Nike.
At 26 years old and standing 6 feet 11 inches, Antetokounmpo plays as a forward for Milwaukee Bucks, with which he has a five-year £165.65 million deal.
He has also signed a deal with Disney to develop a movie scheduled for release next year based on his life and called ‘The Blind Side’.
Antetokounmpo started his career in Greece, moving to the States in 2013.
Max Verstappen was Formula One’s youngest ever driver when he took the wheel for Scuderia Toro Rosso at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix aged 17.
In 2016, driving for Red Bull, he clinched his first Grand Prix win.
Now 23, Verstappen was born in Belgium but holds Dutch nationality. His mother is Belgian, and his father hails from The Netherlands.
In his career with Red Bull, he has 15 Grand Prix wins
Verstappen and Naomi Osaka, 23, are the second youngest athletes on the list of highest-paid sports stars behind soccer player Kylian Mbappe.
Kylian Mbappe is the youngest sports star on the list of highest-earners for 2021, aged 22 years old.
Mbappe has scored 37 more goals than Lionel Messi and 99 more than Christiano Ronaldo at this stage of his career.
Now, he lines up at Paris Saint Germain with Neymar and Messi in the most-feared forward line in football.
Mbappe plays his international football for France.
Just Missing Out On The World’s Top Ten Highest Paid Athlete
The star names who failed to make the cut included:
- Mohamed Salah – Liverpool football start and Moroccan international with earnings of £27.26
- Paul Pogba – Manchester United and France footballer who grossed £25.8 million
- Novak Djokovic – The Serbian tennis star had pay of £25.08 million
- Canelo Alvarez – Earned £24.71 million from boxing
- Andres Iniesta – The Spanish football star was paid £24.71 million
- Robert Lewandowski – The Polish forward playing in Germany also earned £24.71
Related Articles and Insights
Below is a list of some related articles, guides and insights that you may find of interest.
Questions or Comments?
We love to get feedback from our readers. So, after reading this article, if you have any questions or want to make comments, send us a message on this site or our social media?
Don’t forget that you can also request the guides sent directly to your email inbox.