Since 1917, Forbes has been a publication that features a wide array of topics including investing, finance, technology, and marketing to its readers. Among the most popular are their lists like the Forbes 400 (which ranks the richest Americans) and their Forbes 500 (ranking the top American companies), each of which are done annually.
Another popular list is ranking the wealthiest athletes in the world, usually going out to the top one hundred, but we will focus on the top twenty-five in this article. The methodology for this list includes how much money athletes (active only) earn via their salaries (including bonuses, prize money, etc), as well as any endorsement deals they have made with other companies in the past twelve months.
In 2015, the top five richest were Roger Federer ($67 million), Lionel Messi ($73.8 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($79.6 million), Manny Pacquiao ($160 million), and Floyd Mayweather ($300 million). Clearly, looking at last year, soccer and boxing were the places to be ($300 million, really?). So, how did these five do this year? Well, one completely fell off the list, while some NBA and NFL players moved up in the rankings.
Enough talk, though. Here are the twenty-five wealthiest athletes of 2016!
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49 Gareth Bale – $35.9 Million
A standout winger for Real Madrid, Bale had a calf injury that kept him out for a couple of months in the past year. Even though the injury lowered his starts, Bale was still able to score nineteen goals in twenty-three appearances.
His yearly salary plus any bonuses came to $24.9 million, with endorsements bringing in another $11 million, much of which comes from Adidas. Ranked twelfth on ESPN’s world’s most famous athletes list, at only 26 years Bale still has plenty of time to rake in the dough.
47 Fernando Alonso - $36.5 Million
After spending 4 years with Ferrari, Alonso joined up with McLaren-Honda to continue his winning ways in F1 racing. With 2 championships and 32 wins to his name, Alonso was looking to stay at the top, but 2016 had other ideas for him.
Finishing 17th in the standings, Alonso had a particularly nasty crash as his car ended up barrel rolling into a concrete barrier at 180 mph, partially collapsing one of his lungs and causing rib fractures. For his work, McLaren-Honda pays him a cool $35 million, while endorsements kick in an additional $1.5 million.
45 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - $37.4 Million
Say that name three times fast! In 2016, Ibrahimovic received $30.4 million from Paris Saint-Germain along with $7 million in endorsements, most prominently from Nike.
As his club’s all-time leading goal scorer at 113 goals, Zlatan has been able to pile up the awards including three “Player of the Year.” Known as one of the greatest strikers ever, Zlatan has also played for Sweden’s nation team every year since 2001 scoring an amazing sixty-two goals in 113 appearances.
43 Neymar - $37.5 Million
The captain of Brazil’s national team, at only 24, Neymar was able to bring in $14.5 million from his club, FC Barcelona, who he joined in 2013. Even more amazingly, Neymar makes $23 million in endorsements from Nike, Panasonic, Konami, Gillette, and Red Bull, making him the only active soccer player to make more from endorsements over his salary.
In 2016, ESPN ranked him as their fourth most famous athlete in the world, with 109 goals in 196 appearances and so many endorsement deals, it’s easy to see why.
41 Rafael Nadal - $37.5 Million
With 69 career titles, Nadal has established himself as one of tennis’ greatest players over the past decade. An amazing streak came to an end in 2016, when Nadal failed to win a Grand Slam title either at the Australia Open, French Open, US Open, or Wimbledon.
Bringing in $5.5 million in prize money, most of Nadal’s riches come from the companies he endorses, which is a long list including; Tommy Hilfiger, Kia Motors, Nike, and Telefonica (among others) bringing in a grand total of $32 million.
39 Philip Rivers - $38 Million
The first NFL player on the list, Rivers was able to sign a lucrative deal with the San Diego Chargers in 2015 which put $37.5 million into his bank account. Playing with the Chargers since 2004, Rivers hasn’t missed a game since 2006, an incredible achievement, especially in the NFL.
Rivers own most of the Charger’s quarterback records including; most wins (92), most touchdowns (281), and most completions (3,462). His endorsements (while small compared to his salary) are nothing to sneeze at, bringing in an additional $450,000.
37 Sebastian Vettel - $41 Million
With 42 wins (4th all-time) and 4 championships (2010-2013) to his name, Vettel has become a dominant force in F1 racing at a very young age, currently he’s twenty-eight years old. After racing for Red Bull, Vettel signed with Ferrari where he still races in 2016.
Thanks to an incredible contract, he will bring in $40 million plus any bonuses depending on his finishes. Tack on another $1 million in endorsements and Vettel is sitting pretty in the fast lane.
35 Russell Wilson - $41.8 Million
At 27 years old, this 3rd round pick already has a Super Bowl championship and three Pro Bowls to his name. Signing with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson is cashing in $31.8 million a year, which included a $31 million signing bonus.
He’s also become incredible popular among companies looking to endorse NFL players, his list includes: United Way, Bose, Nike, Microsoft, and Braun. Those names are only about half of his endorsements, which totals $10 million to the guy who’s also engaged to Ciara.
33 Rory McIlroy - $42.6 Million
Rory has been able to compile eleven PGA Tour wins at the age of twenty-seven, including four at the major championships. Even though his performance dropped a bit in the past year, he still brought in $7.6 million in prize money, while still doing amazingly when it comes to endorsements, making $35 million from Nike, Electronic Arts, Omega, Bose, and Upper Deck.
Rory continues to be EA Sports’ representative, replacing Tiger Woods, who was the PGA Tour namesake from 1998 until 2013.
31 Floyd Mayweather - $44 Million
Mentioned in the introduction, Mayweather went from number one all the way to number sixteen, mostly because he wasn't going to bring in the same kind of purse without another Pacquiao fight. After defeating Andre Berto, Mayweather said in the ring he would be retiring from boxing with a record of 49-0.
Known as “Money” Mayweather, he still brought in $32 million from fighting, along with $12 million in endorsements from his “World Tour” and TMT merchandise.
29 Tom Brady - $44.1 Million
Everyone’s favorite quarterback was able to make $36.1 million from his NFL salary and bonuses, while also leading the way in NFL merchandise in 2015. The four time Super Bowl champion and eleven time Pro Bowler continues to play at an elite level even at the age of 38.
When it comes to making money off the field, Brady has an interesting mix of endorsers including: Tag Heuer, Simmons Beautyrest, Under Amour, and UGG Boots, all of which add an additional $8 million.
27 Joe Flacco - $44.5 Million
One of the more surprising names on the list is due to how much the Baltimore Ravens love Flacco, signing him to a long-term deal that included a $40 million signing bonus. The Super Bowl winner currently holds the highest average salary in the NFL and also receives an additional $500,000 in endorsements.
From 2008 until 2015, Flacco had yet to miss a game, but in 2015 he tore his ACL and MCL during the 11th week of the season, effectively ending it.
25 Eli Manning - $45 Million
The string of well paid quarterbacks continues with two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, who is holding down a $37 million dollar annual contract with the New York Giants. At 35, Manning holds many of the Giants’ passing records including most touchdowns, yards, completions, and even interceptions.
Playing his entire career with the Giants, Manning still plays at a high level, in particular in the past two years, throwing at least thirty touchdowns in both seasons. Manning also hauls in an additional $8 million from companies like Under Amour.
23 Tiger Woods - $45.3 Million
In what could be the most lopsided in amounts paid, Woods only made $274,000 in prize money, mainly due to the fact that he’s only played 18 events, thanks to a seemingly never-ending list of injuries.
Even though Woods has lost some of his marketing shine, he still brings in an impressive $45 million off the course. Stuck at fourteen major championship wins, Woods is still rehabbing back to being a regular on the PGA Tour.
21 Lewis Hamilton - $46 Million
Here we have yet another F1 driver appearance with Hamilton signing a deal with Mercedes that banks $42 million in salary/bonuses for the thirty-one year old. With forty-five wins and three championships, going back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, Hamilton is the guy to beat in F1 racing.
Off the track, he’s been able to bring in a number of endorsements from IWC, L’Oreal, Monster Energy, and Bombardier to the tune of $4 million.
19 Kobe Bryant - $50 Million
Bryant sure knows how to make lots and lots of money, earning $25 million for the final six years of his career as a Laker. Retiring this year, Kobe was able to bring in a career total of $680 million from both his salary and endorsements, an all-time high for any team athlete.
Kobe’s endorsements also brought in an extra $25 million, which should hold up even during retirement for the four-time NBA champion.
17 Jordan Spieth - $52.8 Million
It’s an understatement to say Spieth had a great year, winning the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth already has 8 PGA Tour wins at the age of 22, which also makes him the youngest athlete on this list. With prize money totaling up to $20.8 million, he was also able to quickly convert his big wins into big endorsement deals.
He’s currently linked to Coca-Cola, AT&T, Under Amour, Titleist, Rolex, and numerous other companies that bring his grand total to $32 million. Many have said he’s on pace to be one of the highest paid golfers ever both on and off the course.
15 Phil Mickelson - $52.9 Million
Phil has built his career not only on big wins, having five major championship wins, but being able to connect with fans in a way that has given him one of the biggest fan bases in golf. That fan base has translated into big companies coming for his endorsement services. Even though he “only” made $2.9 million in prize money last year, he was paid a hefty $50 million in endorsements.
Having relationships with Barclays, Callaway, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex, and Amgen, has successfully put Mickelson in the top ten richest athletes.
13 Cam Newton – $53.1 Million
Re-signing with the Carolina Panthers, Cam had a fantastic 2015 by not only leading his Panthers to a 15-1 record, but taking them to the Super Bowl, coming up short against the Denver Broncos. The 2015 MVP was able to haul in an impressive $41.1 million salary with an additional $12 million in endorsement deals.
Working with Under Amour and Gatorade, Cam has become of the NFL’s most well known faces to the masses. With a solid team surrounding him, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cam get another crack at the Lombardi Trophy in the near future.
11 Novak Djokovic - $55.8 Million
Winning three Grand Slam tournaments in 2015 not only brought Djokovic a ton of prize money, but plenty of notoriety through his sponsors. With such a great year, he was able to be the first tennis player to win over $20 million in a year, in fact, he won $21.8 million.
Tack on another $34 million from endorsements and Djokovic is living the high life as the number one ranked tennis player in the world. Expect to see him high on the list next year as he’s already won the Australian Open and French Open in 2016.
9 Kevin Durant - $56.2 Million
While still on the hunt for his first NBA Championship, Durant is killing it when it comes to making money. The four-time scoring champion is currently making $20.2 million for the Oklahoma City Thunder and has been worth every penny for the team.
Through endorsements (like Nike, EA Sports, Gatorade) he’s been able to make $36 million along with starting up his own underwear line in a partnership with Neff and Foot Locker, because, who wouldn’t want Kevin Durant approved underwear?
7 Roger Federer - $67.8 Million
Quite a jump up from number five, we have Federer who has 17 Grand Slam titles, but hasn’t won one since 2012. In 2015, he had a couple runner-up appearances and was able to win $7.8 million in prize money.
Thanks to his previous years of dominance, Federer has been able to procure plenty of deals with companies like Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, and Credit Suisse. All of this (plus doing random appearances) have landed him an amazing $60 million! In 2016, things have slowed down a bit thanks to back issues and a knee surgery.
5 LeBron James - $77.2 Million
The NBA’s money making machine is currently collecting $23.2 million for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are currently facing off against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch.
Making money off the court is coming just as easily when LeBron signed Nike’s first lifetime contract that could end up being close to be $1 billion when it’s all said and done! He’s also connected to other companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Beats by Dre, and Upper Deck that brings in another $54 million.
3 Lionel Messi – $81.4 Million
Coming in at number two, Messi is a guy who works really hard to get to this amount of money, thanks mostly to bonuses attributed to how often he scores. Being the all-time leader in goals for Barcelona, goals in a calendar year, and hat tricks has brought in $53.4 million.
He’s considered one of the greatest players ever in soccer and thanks to that he’s been able to procure plenty of deals along the way with Adidas being his biggest.
1 Cristiano Ronaldo - $88 Million
It’s good to be the king. This is the first time Ronaldo has topped Forbes’ wealthiest list with a contract that pays him $56 million. Ronaldo was also number one for ESPN's most famous athlete, partially thanks to his 215 million followers on social media.
Ronaldo also brought in $32 million in endorsement deals with Nike, Tag Heuer, Roc headphones, PokerStars and even his own line of CR7 apparel, fragrant, and suits. It’s possible he could return here next year as analysts feel like he still has room to grow across the globe, making even more money along the way.
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