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The World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players 2019: Messi, Ronaldo And Neymar Dominate The Sporting World



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To compile our list of the world’s highest-earning soccer players, we spoke with clubs, players’ agents, commercial sponsors and soccer experts in the U.S. and Europe. All figures are converted to U.S. dollars and include soccer salaries, bonuses and endorsements. Transfer fees are excluded. Earnings are for the period June 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019.

The World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players 2019

Off the pitch, Gerard Piqué is CEO of investment firm Kosmos, which recently announced plans for a 25-year, $3 billion partnership with the International Tennis Federation to transform that sport’s Davis Cup. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images) GETTY

20. Gerard Piqué

  • Total: $21.7M
  • Salary & Bonus: $17.7M
  • Endorsements: $4M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Nike
  • Club: Barcelona   Nation: Spain   Age: 32

In January 2018, Pique signed a contract extension that keeps him at Camp Nou until June 2022 and contains a $600 million buyout clause. Off the pitch he is president of investment firm Kosmos, backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, the chairman and CEO of Tokyo-based e-commerce company and Barcelona jersey sponsor Rakuten. The firm announced plans for a 25-year, $3 billion partnership with the International Tennis Federation to transform that sport’s Davis Cup and create a major new annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals. Pique and his longtime partner, singer Shakira, met on the set of her “Waka Waka” video filmed ahead of the 2010 World Cup and have two children together.

19. Graziano Pelle

  • Total: $21.7M
  • Salary & Bonus: $20.7M
  • Endorsements: $1M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Nike
  • Club: Shandong Luneng  Nation: Italy  Age: 33

Pelle left the Premier League’s Southampton for Shandong Luneng in 2016 and became one of the sport’s highest paid. Despite interest from European clubs, he renewed with the Chinese super club in January of this year.

18. Sergio Ramos

  • Total: $21.9M
  • Salary & Bonus: $19.9M
  • Endorsements: $2M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Nike
  • Club: Real Madrid  Nation: Spain  Age: 33

Ramos held a press conference in May to put to rest speculation that he was leaving Real Madrid. He and club president Florentino Perez confirmed a Chinese club made him an offer but that the 33-year-old would see through his current contract, which expires in June 2020. In June he married Spanish television personality and mother of his three children, Pilar Rubio, in a star-studded ceremony in Sevilla. He is currently developing a docuseries for Amazon Prime around his daily life that will feature his nuptials.

17. James Rodriguez

  • Total: $22.1M
  • Salary & Bonus: $16.3M
  • Endorsements: $4.5M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Adidas, Marc Jacobs, Hublot
  • Club: Bayern Munich through June 2019, on loan from Real Madrid Nation: Colombia  Age: 27

The Colombian attacking midfielder moved to Real Madrid in a much-hyped signing after winning the Golden Boot award in the 2014 World Cup. But after largely serving as a $15-million-a-year benchwarmer, he joined Bayern Munich on a two-year loan in July 2017. Bayern’s CEO confirmed in May that he will not take up the purchase option with Real, leaving Rodriguez in limbo ahead of the 2019-2020 season. There is little doubt about his marketability off the pitch. His poster boy looks have helped him land deals with Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and Hublot. The international’s deal with his biggest sponsor, Adidas, reportedly calls for him to wear the No. 10 jersey for every team he represents, a matter which complicates future club transfers.

16. Thiago Silva

  • Total: $22.5M
  • Salary & Bonus: $21.5M
  • Endorsements: $1M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Nike
  • Club: Paris Saint-Germain  Nation: Brazil  Age: 34

The Brazilian captain of Paris Saint-Germain received his French citizenship in March after six-and-a-half years playing in the country’s capital. He missed the last two months of this club season after undergoing knee surgery but recuperated in time to play in this summer’s Copa America. The 34-year-old’s current contract with PSG runs through June 2020.

15. Sergio Aguero

  • Total: $22.6M
  • Salary & Bonus: $17.1M
  • Endorsements: $5.5M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Puma, Pepsi
  • Club: Manchester City  Nation: Argentina  Age: 31

The Argentine striker, affectionately nicknamed Kun as a child by his grandfather, has been the top goal scorer each season at Man City since joining in 2011. Last year he became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, having hit the back of the net 199 times in 291 career appearances. His long-term sponsor Puma gifted him with a pair of gold boots to wear to celebrate the occasion. The Blues striker signed a one-year contract extension in September 2018 to stay with the club through 2021.

14. Luis Suarez

  • Total: $23.6M
  • Salary & Bonus: $20.1M
  • Endorsements: $3.5M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Puma
  • Club: Barcelona  Nation: Uruguay  Age: 32

The Uruguayan’s contract with Barcelona runs through July 2021 and pays him $20 million in salary and bonus. For the third season in a row he finished as La Liga’s second top goal scorer, behind teammate Messi. In August 2018, he swapped his shoe sponsor, switching from Adidas to rival German sportswear maker Puma. His appeal has spread to Asia, where he pitches upstart tech gadget company Tronsmart in China and Tourism Malaysia.

13. Angel Di Maria

  • Total: $23.7M
  • Salary & Bonus: $21.7M
  • Endorsements: $2M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Adidas
  • Club: Paris Saint-Germain  Nation: Argentina  Age: 31

The 31-year-old Argentina winger signed a contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain in October 2018 that ties him to the French champion until June 2021. This season was one of his most prolific with the club. He hit the back of the net 19 times in all club competitions and lead the team in assists.

Forward Mohamed Salah’s goal celebration involves performing sujud, the Islamic act of prostration to God, an act a Stanford University study credits with a decline in Islamophobia in Liverpool. (Photo credit: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images) GETTY

12. Mohamed Salah

  • Total: $25.1M
  • Salary & Bonus: $16.1M
  • Endorsements: $9M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Adidas, EA Sports, Vodafone, DHL, AlexBank
  • Club: Liverpool  Nation: Egypt  Age: 26

Salah signed a 5-year deal with Liverpool in July 2018 without a release clause. It contains a base and bonus structure worth at least $15 million a year. He has nabbed the Premier League Golden Boot award the past two seasons as the league’s top goalscorer and was both club and league’s Player of the Year last season. A devout Muslim, Salah performs the sujud after scoring. Fans celebrate with him, chanting in part “I’ll be Muslim too.” He’s credited for reducing Islamaphobia in Liverpool. The so-called Egyptian King helped propel his club to a second consecutive UEFA Champions League Final and scored the first of the club’s two goals on the way to victory this year. This March, Adidas made Salah the face of its iconic 1970s-born Adicolor line of sport and streetwear. He has appeared in Adidas commercials alongside Messi and David Beckham.

11. Gareth Bale

  • Total: $27.1M
  • Salary & Bonus: $20.6M
  • Endorsements: $6.5M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Adidas, Wish
  • Club: Real Madrid  Nation: Wales  Age: 29

In October 2016, Bale signed a contract extension with Real Madrid lasting through June 2022 that has the potential to pay up to $33 million in salary and bonus annually. Bale became the first substitute to score two goals, including a stunning overhead kick, to lead Real Madrid to a record third straight UEFA Champions League victory in 2018. His future at Real is the subject of constant speculation. Club manager Zinedine Zidane demoted him to a substitute and noted he denied Bale a “farewell game” when he omitted him from this season’s last match. An avid golfer, Bale replicated three of the world’s most famous golf holes in his backyard. He is signed on with sponsor Adidas through 2020.

10. Antoine Griezmann

  • Total: $27.7M
  • Salary & Bonus: $23.2M
  • Endorsements: $4.5M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Puma, Huawei
  • Club: Atletico Madrid through May 2019  Nation: France  Age:28

In May 2019, Griezmann announced via a video on Atleti’s Twitter account that he was leaving the Madrid club after five years playing 260 matches and scoring 133 goals. Griezmann either scored or set up 8 of the total 14 goals for France that helped them win the 2018 World Cup. He infamously celebrated scoring with a Fortnite dance. The 28-year old forward is long-sponsored by footwear maker Puma and current U.S.-banned Chinese tech giant Huawei.

9. Oscar

  • Total: $29M
  • Salary & Bonus: $27M
  • Endorsements: $2M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Adidas
  • Club: Shanghai SIPG  Nation: Brazil  Age: 27

After five years at Chelsea and two Premier League titles, Oscar made a shocking move to Shanghai SIPG of the Chinese Super League in January 2017. The 27-year-old quadrupled his weekly take-home pay and now makes over $25 million annually through 2020. Oscar provided a league-high 19 assists and scored 12 goals to help SIPG win the Chinese Super League in 2018.

8. Mesut Ozil

  • Total: $30.2M
  • Salary & Bonus: $23.7M
  • Endorsements: $6.5M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Adidas, Mercedes Benz, Beats by Dre
  • Club: Arsenal  Nation: Germany  Age: 30

In February 2018, Ozil signed a contract extension with Arsenal tying him to club until 2021 and doubling his annual pay to about $24 million. Ozil quit Germany’s national team in July 2018 citing racism by the German federation president, fans and media who criticized him for photos with Turkey’s President Erdogan. He and his fiancée announced they would celebrate their June 2019 nuptials by funding 1,000 life-changing surgeries for underprivileged children. Erdogan was a wedding guest. In 2018, Ozil founded professional Esports team M10 eSports to compete in EA Sports’ FIFA competitions. In 2019 he expanded by adding a Fortnite team.

While on tour with Nike in the United States in June 2019, French national and Paris Saint-Germain wonder kid Kylian Mbappé stopped by Venice Beach, California, for a quick pickup match with locals. PHOTO CREDIT: NIKE

7. Kylian Mbappé

  • Total: $30.6M
  • Salary & Bonus: $26.6M
  • Endorsements: $4M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners:Nike, Hublot, Good Gout
  • Club: Paris Saint-Germain  Nation: France  Age: 20

The 20-year-old Frenchman, initially on loan from Monaco, is on full contract with Paris Saint-Germain until 2022, making over $20 million annually plus performance bonuses. In 2018, then 19-year old Mbappé became the youngest French player to score in a World Cup and the second-youngest teenager after legend Pele to score in a World Cup Final. Mbappé won the 2018 World Cup Best Young Player Award and was its joint second-highest scorer, then won Ligue 1’s 2019 Player of the Year award as its 2018-2019 top goal scorer. The French forward donated his $500,000 World Cup bonus to a charity that organizes sporting events for disabled children. Watchmaker Hublot made Mbappé its first active player global ambassador in 2018 and became his leading sponsor after boot sponsor Nike.

6. Alexis Sanchez

  • Total: $30.8M
  • Salary & Bonus: $28.3M
  • Endorsements: $2.5M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Nike
  • Club: Manchester United  Nation: Chile  Age: 30

Sanchez moved to Manchester United from Arsenal in January 2018 and will make between $400,000 and $500,000 week plus an additional $1 million bonus annually through 2022. This past season the 30-year-old struggled with injuries and scored just 6 goals and had 5 assists in 37 appearances. Sanchez plays a leading role in the film Mi Amigo Alexisreleased in May 2019 about a young boy from Chile who is desperate to follow in his hero’s footsteps.

5. Andres Iniesta

  • Total: $32.5M
  • Salary & Bonus: $30M
  • Endorsements: $2.5M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Asics
  • Club: Vissel Kobe  Nation: Spain  Age: 35

The Spanish striker came up through Barcelona’s training academy and spent 22 years, 3 as captain, at the Catalan club before moving to Vissel Kobe in Japan in May 2018. Following his club move, Iniesta ended a 19-year sponsorship with Nike and signed a multiyear deal with Japanese footwear company Asics in October 2018. Iniesta’s winery, Bodega Iniesta, began production in 2010 and includes his Minuto 116 for the minute in the 2010 World Cup when he scored the goal that gave Spain its first title.

4. Paul Pogba

  • Total: $33M
  • Salary & Bonus: $29M
  • Endorsements: $4M
  • Largest Sponsor/Partner: Adidas
  • Club: Manchester United  Nation: France  Age: 26

After four years with Juventus, Pogba returned to Manchester United in 2016 for a then-record $120 million transfer fee. His 5-year contract pays over $20 million a year. The French midfielder auctioned off his 2018 World Cup-winning, Adidas-sponsored shoes for over $30,000 and donated the money to disadvantaged high schoolers. Pogba’s struggle to get along with and perform under 25-time trophy winner Jose Mourinho are considered a main reason Man U relieved the manager of his duties in December 2018.

3. Neymar Jr.

  • Total: $105M
  • Salary & Bonus: $75M
  • Endorsements: $30M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Nike, Red Bull, EA Sports, Mastercard, Gaga Milano, Gillette, Beats by Dre, DAZN
  • Club: Paris Saint-Germain  Nation: Brazil  Age: 27

Neymar is on a 5-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain through June 2022 worth a total cash outlay of more than $600 million, of which $350 million will be paid in salary. His transfer from Barcelona to PSG stands as the most expensive in the world at $263 million, which the French club paid in full ahead of his signing. The 27-year-old Brazilian is the second-most-popular athlete on social media with 223 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In 2016 Neymar was found guilty of avoiding taxes between 2011 and 2013 and paid a $1.2 million fine. In June 2019 a woman filed a rape claim against him in Brazilian court. Neymar lost Brazil’s national team captaincy, ahead of participation in this June’s Copa America, after an altercation with a fan in the stands after PSG’s loss in the French Cup.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Total: $109M
  • Salary & Bonus: $65M
  • Endorsements: $44M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Nike, Herbalife, Altice, DAZN, MTG, Electronic Arts, CR7 line of denim, underwear, footwear, fragrance, hotels and gyms
  • Club: Juventus  Nation: Portugal  Age: 34

Ronaldo joined Italian club Juventus in July 2018 after 9 years with Real Madrid for what amounted to a pay cut. His 4-year deal pays him a gross annual salary of $64 million. Juventus sold 520,000 Ronaldo jerseys worth over $60 million within a day of release. Ronaldo has won FIFA’s Player of the Year five times, is the first player to win Premier League, La Liga and Serie A titles, and is all-time leading goal scorer in the UEFA Champions League. The Portuguese star is the most followed athlete on social media with 370 million total followers. He generated $474 million in value for his sponsors on social media last year. In January 2019 Ronaldo agreed to a $21 million fine for tax evasion between 2010 and 2014. He currently faces a rape claim case filed in federal court in the United States.

1. Lionel Messi

  • Total: $127M
  • Salary & Bonus: $92M
  • Endorsements: $35M
  • Largest Sponsors/Partners: Adidas, Gatorade, Lays, Pepsi, Ooredoo, Mastercard, Jacobs & Co.
  • Club: FC Barcelona  Nation: Argentina  Age: 31

Since his debut for Barcelona in November 2013, Messi has played 687 matches for his club, scored 603 goals and won 33 club titles, including 10 La Liga championships. His current contract with Barcelona will ensure he remains a one-club man through 2020-2021 and pay him over $80 million annually. He also has a lifelong deal with Adidas. He has been awarded FIFA’s Player of the Year for the world’s best player five times and won the European Golden Shoe for top scorer on the continent a record six times. In 2016 he and his agent father were convicted of tax fraud in Spanish court for avoiding income tax between 2007 and 2009. He was ordered to pay a $2.25 million fine, and his 21-month prison sentence was reduced to an additional $250,000 fine.Send me a secure tip.

-Christina Settimi; Forbes Staff

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Staying Flexible: With The Postponement Of The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, This Gymnast’s Goal Hasn’t Changed



The 19-year-old South African gymnast was all set for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in July, for which she had qualified. With the event’s postponement, her goal hasn’t changed, she says, only the timeline has. 

At just 19 years old, Caitlin Rooskrantz is South Africa’s gold medal-winning international gymnast.

From Florida, a small suburb in Roodepoort in Johannesburg, and currently in lockdown in the country, if the Covid-19 pandemic hadn’t happened, Rooskrantz would have now been intensely training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in July, for which she had qualified.

 “I qualified for the 2020 Games being the first woman in South Africa’s gymnastics history to have achieved an outright qualification at the world championships,” she told an audience of female powerhouses at the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit in Durban on March 6.

Even as a child, when she first took to gymnastics, she had been set on making it to the Olympics one day.   

The news of the Games’ postponement has been quite upsetting, but says Rooskrantz: “It is in the best interest of all the athletes because our health comes first, always!” Her favorite quote, in particular, comforts her at this time: “The goal hasn’t changed, just the timeline has, keep going!”

Her training has continued through the lockdown and it has kept her afternoons busy.

“We have set programs to keep up our strength, fitness and flexibility. To try and keep up my mental game, I watch videos daily of any past successful competitions. I analyse my training videos and try to mentally put myself in the video,” she says.

2019 had been “a spectacular year” for her.

“I managed to pass matric well with two distinctions and university entrance while training for my childhood dream. Not only did I bag South Africa’s first-ever gold medal on uneven bars on an international stage, but at just 18 years old, I made history,” she said at the summit, to an applauding audience. 

In an interview with FORBES AFRICA, Rooskrantz reflects on the days when it all started, as a young child, when she was a bundle of energy and her parents knew early on that they had to redirect that energy to sport.

A teenager now, but if Rooskrantz has already seen much success, she has also experienced tragedy and hardship.

When she was just eight, her father, from whom she inherited her deep love for sport, passed away. He took his own life.

She had been training at a gymnastics center a few kilometers from home, but that had to stop because of the tragedy and transportation issues. But her former trainer took it upon herself to regularly drive her there.

“Everything started escalating and things took a turn. I dropped all my school sports because I didn’t have any time for them; I had to pick one, especially with the high demand of gym,” she says.

Rooskrantz was placed on a high-performance program and soon started traveling; training more than four hours a day six days a week at the age of 11. This was the intermediate level of her tumbling (a gymnastic feat including the execution of acrobatic feats) profession and the best was yet to come.

Her first overseas trip was to Australia for a training camp in 2012. A few months later, Rooskrantz competed in Serbia for her first international competition. It might have not been the best competition for her, but it was great exposure.

In 2014, South Africa hosted the African gymnastics championships with Rooskrantz the youngest member of the junior team.

“I did well, I don’t remember falling and I made it to the bar finals and that was the time I started to realize my potential on the asymmetric bar. I left that with a big boost to my confidence.” 

The young student was progressing quickly, reaching new heights.

On her last year as a junior in the 2016 Junior Commonwealth Games in Namibia, she made three apparatus finals; asymmetric bar, vault and the balancing beam.

An injury kept her away from the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018, when she went in for surgery and was off the apparatus for months.

“I was in bed after my operation but back at gym a week after, still on crutches, working on my upper body. In a sport like gymnastics, when you are that injured, it is critical to do something because you lose strength, flexibility and fitness. I was also working on my mental state,” she says of those hard days. Her coach told her the surgery was either going to make or break her career. She was determined to return stronger. She did, and how.

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All Home And No Play: Not Since World War II Has The Global Sports Industry Faced Such A Crippling Crisis



Not since World War II has the global sports industry faced such a crippling crisis, which is likely to cost billions of dollars in lost revenue and could yet see the permanent extinction of some teams and competitions.

The coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the world has the potential to change the face of sports forever, and Africa will not be spared, with one administrator suggesting the outbreak could set their game back 20 years.

The severity of the impact will be determined by how long it takes for society to live alongside the pandemic, but even if that were to happen in June, there has already been significant damage done.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Ahmad Ahmad has tried to provide a positive outlook, but knows the complexity of the situation on the continent is dire.

None of the 54 domestic leagues in Africa was still running in May, as Burundi was the last to close up shop the month before, but just when cross-border competitions such as the lucrative CAF Champions League, and qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup, can resume, is anybody’s guess given travel restrictions are likely to be in place for some time, and vary from country to country.

“CAF is already focused on the conditions for relaunching our competitions and our events,” Ahmad said in comments supplied to FORBES AFRICA.

“Never has a crisis of such great magnitude crossed the world, never has world sport decreed so many postponements of its programs and never has such a tsunami struck the most basic sporting practice.

“We are now condemned to rebuild the basics, or at least to reinforce them, to energize them so that at the time of recovery, we will be the best structured and best disposed to conquer or re-conquer, the dry territories of sport and football.

It is Ahmad’s way of saying that any thought of returning to pre-coronavirus levels of engagement and sponsorship are fanciful in the short-term, or perhaps even medium-term.

His suggestion of having to “rebuild the basics” is a key admission and will be the same for many sports that face a sponsorship vacuum from some of the world’s leading brands.

When airlines, major sponsors of African sport, have been laying off staff and cut their schedules to next to nothing, can they justify pumping millions of dollars into sport?

The same for car manufactures, loss-making banks and oil companies hit by the drop in the price of crude.

The health conditions to allow play for many sports in Africa may return this year, but the question is whether there will be the financial support vital to being able to play the game.

Selwyn Nathan, commissioner of South Africa’s Sunshine Tour and a leading expert on global golf, suggests the pandemic may return the sport to the year 2000 in terms of financial capabilities.

“It could be like starting a business all over again, you can’t have an attitude that people [sponsors] will just come back,” Nathan says.

“It’s not something unique to Africa, or sport anywhere in the world, but we are going to have to change the way we do things.

“Players will have to accept that they are not going to be playing for the same money, and organizers must accept they will have to ask for less [money] and possibly do more just to retain sponsors.

“It is going to fundamentally change the way we operate and we have to adapt to that.”

Winners in some co-sanctioned Sunshine Tour and European Tour golf events can earn upwards of $1.5-million per tournament, but Nathan believes those numbers will be fanciful for the foreseeable future and it is likely to be a fraction of that.

The pandemic could be the death knell for ailing Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere club championship that has been hanging on for dear life, as it was, due to dwindling interest and its format that sees players criss-cross the globe between Argentina, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Japan.

In the case of world champion Springboks, that could actually work in their favor and see them looking north to Europe for club and country competitions, where the TV revenues are greater and load on players less, according to respected Stormers coach John Dobson.

“I believe there will be a restructuring of the game and that could be at Super Rugby’s expense,” Dobson says. “There could be stronger focus on domestic competitions with less travel and more tailored for television, because ultimately, that is where you get the revenue to run the game.

“It’s critical you have a product that is appealing to rugby fans, and after this period, maybe that will rather involve South African teams playing in the [European] Heineken Cup. I don’t know, but something has to change.”

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, who is chairman of the APO Group, a communication and business consultancy in Africa, says he has seen first-hand the toll the virus has taken on sports federations almost across the board.

“I think, unfortunately, it will have a devastating effect for many. First of all, athletes cannot train properly and when you are at the level of international competition, just a few percentage points off can compromise your body,” he says.

“Added to that, there is no competition and the longer this goes on, the longer it will take for athletes to return to peak performances, so in the near term, you will have a poorer product for television and sponsors.”

Pompigne-Mognard says cross-border competitions are vital in Africa and it is in these multi-national tournaments where many federations across different sports make most of their revenue.

“Each African nation is unlikely to return to full health at the same time, so, for example, the Basketball Africa League, which involves 12 teams from across the continent has to be put on hold until travel is possible.

“It will go ahead, but the question is when and what are the financial consequences of this? It is something that we cannot quantify now, so we live in this state of uncertainty and that is not good for anybody, sport or business.”

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 has brought much relief for many athletes, who had seen their training regimes brought to a halt, or at best conducted in the confines of their own home.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Chad le Clos had had to make do with what he has at home while in lockdown in South Africa, one of thousands of elite athletes from across Africa in similar situations.

“It is what it is and I am happy with the decision (to move the Olympics) that has been made,” Le Clos says. “I have a small pool at home, so I attach a cord that allows me to stay stationary as I swim.”

 “We cannot afford to take a break, even in lockdown. You cannot let yourself lose the months and months of work that you have put into your body.

“I don’t know where or when I will compete again, but you have to stay positive. You have to hope for the best, that is all we can do.”

-Nick Said

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Ronaldo’s $105 Million Year Tops Messi And Crowns Him Soccer’s First Billion-Dollar Man




Add another zero to soccer’s most expensive rivalry.

Cristiano Ronaldo earned $105 million before taxes and fees in the past year, landing him at No. 4 on the 2020 Forbes Celebrity 100, one spot above his top rival in the sport, Lionel Messi, and making him the first soccer player in history to earn $1 billion.  

The 35-year-old striker is only the third athlete to hit mark while still playing following Tiger Woods, who did it in 2009 on the back of his long term endorsement deal with Nike NKE, and Floyd Mayweather in 2017, who’s made most of his income from a cut of pay-per-view sales for his boxing matches. 

Ronaldo, the first to do it in a team sport, has made $650 million during his 17 years on the pitch, and is expected to reach $765 million in career salary after his current contract ends in June 2022. Messi, who began playing at the senior level three years after Ronaldo, has earned a total of $605 million in salary since 2005. The only team athlete to even come within striking distance of those figures was former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who retired in 2016 after 22 years in MLB having earned $450 million in salary. Not even soccer legend David Beckham came close, ending his career with total earnings of $500 million, half of which came from off-pitch endorsements. 

“Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time, in the world’s most popular sport, in an era when football has never been so rich,” said Sporting Intelligence’s Nick Harris, whose Global Sports Salaries Survey ranks teams worldwide based on total salary expense. “He’s box office.”

Ronaldo and Messi’s head-to-heads heated up in Spain’s La Liga in 2009, where Ronaldo played for Real Madrid and Messi for Barcelona. Their faceoffs on the pitch ignited a nine-year battle for bragging rights as the best — and top-paid — in the sport, a highly personal tit-for-tat that had them re-negotiating contracts in lockstep and monopolizing the game’s highlight reel. 

The rivalry was as entertaining as it was profitable, coming just as clubs around the world were seeing soaring attendance and an influx of television money. The two were perfectly matched for battle, on and off the pitch: Ronaldo perfected a shirtless, stylized showmanship while Messi played the quiet game, always a tad unkempt and as prolific a scorer as he was a wingman. Ronaldo strutted after every goal. Messi was a master at thanking his teammates. 

Both backed it up. Barcelona won the La Liga title six times and two Champions Leagues trophies with Messi on the squad. Real Madrid won the Spanish title twice and the Champions League four times with Ronaldo. During their years in the league, each player nabbed four Ballon d’Ors (soccer’s MVP) and their El Classicos, the nickname for their clubs fierce clashes, were record-setting television events worldwide. 

But when it came to leveraging celebrity, it has been no contest. Guided by Jorge Mendes of Gestifute, one of the world’s most powerful agents, Ronaldo has amassed an ever-growing following of fans and consumers drawn to his poster-boy good looks, trend-setting hair styles, impeccable fashion sense and, lately, his softer side as a family man whose toddlers pop up on his social media posts. In January he became the first person with 200 million followers on Instagram, part of a social media army of 427 million across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that makes him the most popular athlete on the planet. 

Nike pays him upwards of $20 million annually and signed him to a lifetime deal in 2016, making him just the third athlete after Michael Jordan and LeBron James hitched to the Swoosh for eternity. In May, the footwear maker announced the release of a 10-year anniversary edition of his first signature Mercurial Superfly and a child’s version to celebrate his son’s 10th birthday, complete with his famous celebration stance, signature and logo. Pitches for Clear shampoo, Herbalife HLF, and pharmaceutical maker Abbott help raise his endorsement tally to $45 million.

Ronaldo, Inc. even has a trademark — CR7, a mix of his initials and jersey number — part of a lifestyle brand that Forbes estimates accounts for a quarter of his annual endorsement income, including branded underwear that debuted in 2013 that was followed by a line of shoes, fragrances and denim wear. He partnered with Pestana Hotel Group in 2015 to open his first property a year later in his hometown of Funchal, Madeira, right above Museu CR7, a shrine for his trophies and a retail outlet for his merchandise. He’s since added CR7 clubs with Crunch Fitness, posts workout routines on YouTube and has attached his name to a social media influencing degree offered by Italian online university eCampus.

And the rivalry is far from done.

Ronaldo’s 2020 earnings include a salary of $60 million, slightly less than last year due to a 30% pay cut he agreed to take this April as a result of the pandemic. Messi, who earned $104 million in the past year after taking a 70% pay cut while coronavirus sidelined play, is poised to surpass $1 billion in all-time earnings as soon as next year, before his current Barca contract ends.

Christina Settimi, Forbes Staff, SportsMoney

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