A recent news article published in the Forbes speaks about the 2022 World Cup’s Highest-Paid Players.
No stranger to the World Cup
Kylian Mbappé, the highest-paid soccer player on the planet, is no stranger to the World Cup. Just four years ago, he helped France win the tournament for the first time since 1998. It was a coming-out party of sorts for the then-19-year-old, who was named the best young player at the Russia-hosted event.
Qatar 2022 could be a watershed moment for the now-23-year-old superstar, ushering in a new wave of popularity and, potentially, an even bigger payday.
“Mbappé’s status on the world stage will be extreme, especially with the EA Sports association, his boot deal [with Nike] and everything that comes with that,” Rossi Biddle, owner of sports marketing firm XtraTimeFC, says, speaking of his endorsement partners. He adds that Mbappé, the cover athlete of EA Sports’ FIFA 23 video game, is likely to be the face of the World Cup and that if France does well, sponsorship interest will further skyrocket.
With 3.6 billion people tuning in for the last World Cup in 2018, the event presents an unparalleled exposure opportunity for stars of the global game. Across 64 matches, the tournament posted an average audience of 191 million. (FIFA boss Gianni Infantino said in May that he expects 5 billion viewers for the 2022 tournament.) As a result, brands flock to the World Cup, and players, Biddle adds, offer a low barrier of entry into the sponsorship side of the event. The deeper a country advances, the more exposure for its star players.
Already, Mbappé is one of the most financially successful athletes in the sport. Forbes estimates he will earn $128 million for the 2022-23 season before taxes and agents’ fees. Thanks to a three-year contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain, he’ll be paid $110 million between his salary and a share of his signing bonus this season, according to industry experts. That is on top of an estimated $18 million that Mbappé earns annually from endorsements, including deals with Nike, Dior, Hublot, Oakley, Panini, EA Sports and Sorare.
While Mbappé looks to add a second World Cup win to his résumé, two of the game’s biggest stars are still chasing their first, and possibly for the last time. Argentina’s Lionel Messi, 35, has already said 2022 will be his last World Cup. The expectation is the same for Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who will turn 38 in February.
12 Ballons d’Or and won countless titles
Collectively, the pair have scored hundreds of goals, secured 12 Ballons d’Or and won countless titles, including the UEFA Champions League. Yet World Cup glory has eluded them. They remain two of the highest-paid players in soccer, having earned more than $1 billion each in their careers, and are still both expected to cross the nine-figure mark in total earnings this season, with Messi projected to earn $120 million including endorsements and Ronaldo at $100 million.
For Ronaldo, though, the end may be closer than expected. His attitude and performance with Manchester United have been harshly criticized this season. Ronaldo, who reportedly sought a transfer in the preseason, has struggled to make his club’s first team and clashed with United manager Erik Ten Hag. In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo criticized United, the Glazer family and Ten Hag, saying, “If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
His sharp decrease in playing time hasn’t diminished his popularity. Ronaldo is the highest-earning soccer player off the pitch at $60 million, according to Forbes estimates, with partners that include Nike, Herbalife and Livescore. (The only other player close is Messi at $55 million.) In July, Ronaldo agreed to an exclusive, multi-year partnership with crypto exchange Binance, and he launched his first NFT collection on Friday. He is also the most popular athlete account on Instagram, with an astounding 497 million followers.
Rounding out the five highest-paid stars playing in Qatar are two more aging stars in Brazil’s Neymar Jr. and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski. Even though he’s only 30, Neymar has publicly hinted that 2022 could be his last World Cup, and with Brazil favored to win, he has a chance of going out on top. Meanwhile, Lewandowski, 34, has been on fire since joining FC Barcelona in a roughly $45 million transfer earlier this year, scoring 18 goals in 18 games started. He’s slated to pull in an estimated $35 million this season, with $8 million off the pitch.
Five highest-paid players at the World Cup
In total, the five highest-paid players at the World Cup are expected to earn a total of $452 million this season, $173 million of which off the pitch, according to Forbes estimates. If any of them makes a deep run, they could pad their earnings not just with more endorsement opportunities but with prize money, too—albeit on a much smaller scale. France won $38 million for winning in 2018 and distributed $11 million among 23 players, an average payment of roughly $480,000. FIFA will award $440 million in prize money for Qatar 2022, with the winners taking home $42 million.
As for who the crowd is rooting for, XtraTimeFC’s Biddle has one theory. “I think that people just want to have one more Ronaldo moment,” he says, adding, “Soccer fans love Messi, soccer fans love Neymar, but off the field they don’t necessarily appeal to the average person, where Ronaldo does.”
2022 World Cup’s highest-paid players
#1. $128 mil
AGE: 23 | COUNTRY: France | ON-FIELD: $110 mil • OFF-FIELD: $18 mil
#2. $120 mil
AGE: 35 | COUNTRY: Argentina | ON-FIELD: $65 mil • OFF-FIELD: $55 mil
#3. $100 mil
AGE: 37 | COUNTRY: Portugal | ON-FIELD: $40 mil • OFF-FIELD: $60 mil
#4. $87 mil
AGE: 30 | COUNTRY: Brazil | ON-FIELD: $55 mil • OFF-FIELD: $32 mil
#5. $35 mil
AGE: 34 | COUNTRY: Poland | ON-FIELD: $27 mil • OFF-FIELD: $8 mil
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