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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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The Highest-Paid Tennis Players 2019: Roger Federer Scores A Record $93 Million

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Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are kicking off play at the U.S. Open as the three favorites to win the title and take home a Grand Slam-record $3.85 million payday as the singles champion. The Big Three are a good bet, having captured 53 out of 63 Slams since the start of 2004, including the last 11.

The on-court dominance has produced a combined $373 million in career prize money for the trio, light years ahead of their peers. But the money off the court is even sweeter for Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, to the tune of a cumulative $1.2 billion during their careers from endorsement partners and appearance fees.

Federer is the highest-paid tennis player for the 14th straight year, with $93.4 million from prize money, endorsements and appearance fees in the 12 months ending June 1. It is a record tally by a tennis player.

READ MORE | Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

His sponsor portfolio is unmatched in sports, with a dozen partners together paying him more than $60 million a year, well ahead of other global sports icons like Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Credit Federer’s long run at the top—his Slam titles span 15 years—and the strong demographics of tennis fans, who spend heavily on equipment, apparel, cars, watches and financial services. The global nature of the sport also allows brands to use the players in marketing around the world.

Federer turned 38 this month, and Father Time will catch up at some point, but Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo is betting $300 million that Federer will continue to resonate with fans long after he hangs up his racket.

READ MORE | Business Is Booming For Tennis Ace Naomi Osaka, On Track To Be The Highest-Paid Female Athlete

After two decades with Nike, Federer signed a ten-year deal with Uniqlo last year that is guaranteed whether he is playing or not. In the coming months, Federer will also likely take back control of his RF logo, which stayed with Nike after their split.

After a two-year Slam drought, Djokovic has roared back to capture four of the past five majors. The titles helped push his 12-month earnings to $50.6 million, including $30 million off the court from appearances and sponsors Lacoste, Head, Asics, Seiko, NetJets and Ultimate Software. He ranks as the second-highest-paid tennis player.

Rounding out the top five players are Kei Nishikori ($37.3 million), Nadal ($35 million) and Serena Williams ($29.2 million).

Tennis is the only major sport in which women and men are in the same zip code in terms of earnings. The U.S. Open was the first Slam to offer equal payouts for the men’s and women’s events, and now each of the four Slams has equal pay. While Williams was the only woman to crack Forbes‘ 100 highest-paid athletes this year, the top ten earners in tennis are split evenly between men and women.

The top ten collectively made $312 million, up 23% from last year, fueled by huge gains by Federer, Djokovic and Naomi Osaka. See the full top ten below.

10. Sloane Stephens

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Total earnings: $9.6 million

Prize money: $4.1 million

Endorsements: $5.5 million

The 2017 U.S. Open champion returns to Flushing Meadows this year wearing a tennis shoe based on the “Aqua” colorway of Nike’s retro Air Jordan VIII. Her Nike pact, which began last year, is one of the biggest in the sport. Stephens recently announced her engagement to soccer star Jozy Altidore.

9. Simona Halep

The Championships - Wimbledon 2019
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Total earnings: $10.2 million

Prize money: $6.2 million

Endorsements: $4 million

Halep has won only one event in 2019, but it was a big one: Wimbledon, and its $3 million payday, her second career Grand Slam title. The Romanian pro counts Nike, Wilson, Mercedes-Benz and Hublot among her sponsors.

8. Angelique Kerber

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Total earnings: $11.3 million

Prize money: $5.3 million

Endorsements: $6 million

Kerber triggered lucrative bonuses from sponsors, namely Adidas, with her 2018 Wimbledon title and year-end rank of second in the world. In addition to Adidas, the German pro has also renewed deals with SAP, Generali and NetJets since Wimbleon and recently inked a new pact with Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders brand. Other endorsements include Yonex, Porsche, Rolex and Lavazza.

7. Alexander Zverev

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Total earnings: $11.8 million

Prize money: $6.3 million

Endorsements: $5.5 million

The 22-year-old German is a rising star on the ATP Tour and has 11 career titles, including the 2018 year-end ATP Finals, which was worth $2.5 million in prize money. He has a large deal with Adidas, in addition to endorsements with Head, Peugeot, Richard Mille and Zegna.

6. Naomi Osaka

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Total earnings: $24.3 million

Prize money: $8.3 million

Endorsements: $16 million

Osaka will see her endorsement number soar even higher, having signed a series of deals since her 2018 U.S. Open win. The biggest is with Nike, which was inked just ahead of our June 1 cutoff and is worth an estimated $10 million annually. She also recently added a series of endorsement partners—Hyperice, BodyArmor and Muzik—where she received equity stakes in the businesses.

5. Serena Williams

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Total earnings: $29.2 million

Prize money: $4.2 million

Endorsements: $25 million

The world’s highest-paid female athlete four years running had a record year off the court after her return to tennis following the birth of daughter Olympia. She added deals with Pampers, Axa Financial and General Mills to her roster. Williams’ next act is tackling venture investing, focused largely on companies led by women or people of color.

4. Rafael Nadal

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Total earnings: $35 million

Prize money: $9 million

Endorsements: $26 million

The Spaniard is one of the biggest draws in tennis and can command appearance fees of more than $1 million a pop. His primary sponsors include Nike, Babolat, Kia Motors, Telefónica, Richard Mille and Mapfre.

3. Kei Nishikori

TENNIS: AUG 07 Coupe Rogers
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Total earnings: $37.3 million

Prize money: $4.3 million

Endorsements: $33 million

Nishikori and Zverev are the only non-Slam winners among the ten highest-paid tennis players. But Nishikori’s robust endorsement portfolio is fueled by his status as the most successful Japanese player ever. He is set to be one of the faces of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. His sponsors Asahi, NTT, Japan Airlines, Lixil, Procter & Gamble and Nissin are all official Olympics partners.

2. Novak Djokovic

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Total earnings: $50.6 million

Prize money: $20.6 million

Endorsements: $30 million

There have been ten tennis seasons in which a player won more than $12 million in prize money. Djokovic owns seven of those years. His $135 million in career prize money has him $9 million ahead of Federer. Djokovic’s Lacoste endorsement is one of the richest deals in the sport.

1. Roger Federer

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Total earnings: $93.4 million

Prize money: $7.4 million

Endorsements: $86 million

In addition to his blockbuster Uniqlo pact, Federer added a multimillion-dollar deal with Rimowa last year. The luggage brand joined Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Moet & Chandon, Barilla and others in Fed’s endorsement stable.

-Kurt Badenhausen; Forbes

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Grass Gets Greener For Young South African Golfing Wonder

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Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala already has the golfing world at his feet.


South African golf legend Gary Player believes the country has the potential to produce the next Tiger Woods, a superstar with charisma and global appeal that will win major titles and become a role model to millions around the world.

Player told FORBES AFRICA late last year he was “convinced there is a black girl or boy in South Africa today with tremendous athletic prowess, and with the talent to be a champion”.

Player’s prophecy could come true sooner than, perhaps even, he expects, with the emergence of seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala, a youngster that has shown such outstanding talent on the golf course that the world has sat up to take notice.

READ MORE | Grass Is Greener In Soweto For Golf Legend Gary Player

Tshabalala, who learned the game from YouTube videos and has only been professionally coached for the last few years, has already played at the Australian Open, where he came fourth, has played in Malaysia and Scotland, and won the local US Kids Tour this year.

He will soon be jetting off to the United States, England and Canada for more events in the coming month, fueling his passion to one day emulate, and then surpass, his hero.

“It’s going very well, it’s very exciting for me,” Tshabalala tells FORBES AFRICA. “I really look up to Tiger Woods, he was number one in the world for so long.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala. Picture Supplied

“He won so many tournaments and, just like me, he started playing at such a young age. He carried that through to his adult life and became a legend.”

The way Tshabalala talks; he is seven going on 17, such is the maturity with which he answers questions.

Clearly, an exceptionally talented, and level-headed child, he has the golfing world at his feet.

His father, Bonginkosi Tshabalala, admits his son’s success has taken him rather by surprise, but he is determined to make sure all avenues are open for the youngster.

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

“I grew up with an absent father, with no male guidance or exposure to many things, so it’s very important for me to be able to provide this platform for Sim. I want him to have a better life than me,” Tshabalala senior says.

The young Sim tried just about every sport going, but none stuck until he picked up a golf club.

“From the age of two, we have tried all sports – tennis, swimming, cricket, soccer and finally golf,” his father says.

“I must admit I did not even know what a golf course looked like.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala holds the South African flag up high. Picture: Supplied

“I had no clue about the rules of the game, but I thought I had to teach myself first, then I could pass that on to Sim.

“So I bought some clubs, and the two of us would sit and watch YouTube videos with coaching tips and the like, trying to learn the game.

“We had been going to the driving range together and he was really enjoying it, so I decided to get him formal coaching.”

But Tshabalala senior, who is also his son’s caddy, says it is not enough and they put in hours and hours of practice together each week.

“If you give him a fork to eat with, he will use it to practise his swing. The first thing he does in the morning when he gets out of bed is practice his swing. He is amazingly committed to the game.”

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala on the gold course. Picture: Supplied

Such is his promise that ‘Sim Tiger’ has already secured a sponsorship from top global golf equipment manufacturer, TaylorMade, but for the rest, his increasingly expensive career is being funded by his father.

“We will be at the World Championships in North Carolina from August 1 to 3. Then we travel to England for the British Kids Championship on August 8 and 9, and from there, we play the 2019 Canadian Invitational on August 12 to 13.

“It is obviously very expensive, and we are looking for sponsorship, but at the same time, it is an amazing experience.

“When we went to Malaysia, it was the first time, I had never been outside of South Africa, so we have grown together as a family.”

READ MORE | World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2019: What Messi, LeBron And Tiger Make

For Tshabalala senior, this journey is much more than golf and travel, it is a chance for him to spend time with his son, perhaps healing some of those old wounds that linger from his father not providing him with the same support.

“Whatever happens in the future, it has brought us closer, and hopefully, he has learned some life lessons along the way,” he says.

Seven-year-old Simthandile ‘Sim Tiger’ Tshabalala. Picture: Supplied

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The World’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019

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The Dallas Cowboys kick off training camp this weekend as the defending NFC East champions. Last season ended with a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, which marked 23 straight years the Cowboys were shut out of the NFC Championship game. Only the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions have longer title-game droughts.

But America’s Team remains the biggest must-see show in sports. Nine of the 50 highest-rated sports TV broadcasts in 2018 were regular season Cowboys games, helping goose ratings for CBS, NBC and Fox (the Patriots were the only other team with more than four games among the top 50).

Cowboys fever helps owner Jerry Jones generate an estimated $340 million in sponsorship and premium seating revenue at AT&T Stadium, twice as much as any other team.

While Jones’ team has come up short on the field the past 20-plus years, the Cowboys are the world’s most valuable sports franchise for the fourth-straight year at $5 billion. Jones has capitalized on the insatiable appetite for all things Cowboys.

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

“On and off the field, in season and out of season, there is a small soap opera going on every day,” Jones told my colleague Mike Ozanian last fall during a taping of ForbesSportsMoney on the YES Network. “Everyone knows that marketing, especially in this day and time, is just another way to promote the circus, so to speak.”

Jones has always been a visionary since he bought the Cowboys for $150 million 30 years ago. He revolutionized stadium sponsorships; broke away from the NFL’s shared merchandise revenue system; launched a stadium-management firm, Legends Hospitality, with the New York Yankees; and opened a $1.5 billion practice facility in 2017.

The New England Patriots' Tom Brady
The New England Patriots’ Tom Brady MADDIE MEYER/GETTY IMAGES

The result: Dallas sits atop the globe’s richest sports league with profits, in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, of $365 million in 2017, a record for any sports team.

The cutoff to rank among the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams is $2.075 billion, up $125 million from last year and $1.2 billion from five years ago. The values of sports teams have skyrocketed on the backs of ballooning media rights deals and more owner-friendly collective bargaining agreements that restrain player costs. There are 52 teams across all sports worth at least $2 billion, up from one, Manchester United, in 2012.

The NFL is still the most dominant sports league when it comes to the worth of its franchises. More than half of the top 50 are football squads. Credit the monster media-rights deals with the likes of CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and DirecTV that paid out more than $260 million per team last year. The TV haul is a nice cushion to easily cover teams’ biggest expense item, player costs, before any tickets, sponsorships, beer or replica jerseys are sold. The cap on player salaries was $177 million last season (each team is also on the hook for $40 million annually in player benefit costs).

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The New York Yankees moved up three spots to just behind the Cowboys with a value of $4.6 billion, up 15%. The Bronx Bombers head seven MLB teams that made the top 50. The Yankees are surging on and off the field. They own the best record in the American League this season, after posting 100 wins last year. Attendance at Yankee Stadium jumped 10% last year to 3.5 million fans, the highest for the club since 2012. Viewership of Yankees games on the YES Network was 57% higher than any other baseball franchise in 2018.

Real Madrid ranks third at $4.2 billion and highest among the eight soccer clubs in the top 50. The La Liga club was the last sports team deemed the world’s most valuable before the Cowboys secured the title starting in 2016. Real banked more than $100 million for winning its second-straight Champions League crown last year.

Don’t look for Real Madrid to set any records with regard to the richest sports team sale, currently $2.3 billion for the sales of the Carolina Panthers in 2018 and the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. Real is owned by its more than 90,000 members, who elect a club president. It’s a similar structure at rival Barcelona, which ranks fourth overall with a value of $4.02 billion.

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry
The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen CurryGREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES

NBA teams have made the most dramatic moves this decade. The New York Knicks headline nine hoops teams in the top 50 this year. Their $4 billion value, up 11%, ranks fifth among all sports teams. The Los Angeles Lakers ($3.7 billion) and Golden State Warriors ($3.5 billion) also cracked the top 10. In 2012, the Lakers were the most valuable NBA team at $900 million and ranked 35th out of all sports franchises. The Knicks were the only other NBA team in the top 50 in 2012.

Three NBA franchises have been sold for at least $2 billion since 2014 (Nets, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers). The prior NBA-record sale price was $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks, which closed three months before Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion blockbuster purchase of the Clippers.

READ MORE | The 10 Most Notable New Billionaires Of 2019

Investors salivate at the NBA’s international prospects, with 300 million basketball players in China and annual revenue growing outside the U.S. at a rate in the high teens. The 2016 CBA locked in player costs at 50% of the league’s surging revenue, and league-wide profits are up tenfold over the past seven years by Forbes’ count.

The world’s richest sports teams are almost all swimming in cash these days. Barcelona, which lost $37 million due to excessive player costs, was the only top-50 team to post a loss on an operating basis, and every other team turned a profit of at least $25 million. More than half of the teams made more than $100 million, led by the Cowboys at $365 million.

The franchise values below are based on Forbes’ published valuations over the past 12 months. Team values reflect enterprise values (equity plus debt). No teams from the NHL, Nascar, MLS or Formula One made the top 50. The highest-ranking franchise outside of the NBA, NFL, MLB and European soccer was the New York Rangers at 72nd with a value of $1.55 billion.

Gridiron Rules

The NFL remains the most dominant sports leagues with more than half of the 50 most valuable sports franchises, but the other major sports chipped away at its dominance during the past year.

More Than a Game

The discount bin is empty when shopping for teams in the major sports leagues. Every NFL, NBA and MLB franchise is now worth at least $1 billion.

Candlestick Chart
Trophy Assets

Manchester United was the world’s only pro sports team worth more than $2 billion in 2012. Now there are at least 50, including almost every NFL team.

Pictograph 1
The World's 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams
RICH SCHULTZ/GETTY IMAGES, ADAM GLANZMAN/MLB VIA GETTY IMAGES, BOB LEVEY/GETTY IMAGES

50 New Orleans Saints (NFL)

  • Value: $2.08 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owner: Gayle Benson
  • Operating Income*: $115 million

49 | Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)

  • Value: $2.08 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Shahid Khan
  • Operating Income: $63 million

47 (tie) | Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)

  • Value: $2.1 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owners: Lamar Hunt Family
  • Operating Income: $60 million

47 (tie) | St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

  • Value: $2.1 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 11%
  • Owner: William DeWitt Jr.
  • Operating Income: $65 million

46 | Arizona Cardinals (NFL)

  • Value: $2.15 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Wiliam Bidwill
  • Operating Income: $74 million

45 | Liverpool (Soccer)

  • Value: $2.18 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 12%
  • Owners: John Henry, Tom Werner
  • Operating Income: $128 million

44 | Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)

  • Value: $2.2 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 2%
  • Owner: Steve Ballmer
  • Operating Income: $40 million

43 | Dallas Mavericks (NBA)

  • Value: $2.25 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 18%
  • Owner: Mark Cuban
  • Operating Income: $99 million

42 | Arsenal (Soccer)

  • Value: $2.27 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 1%
  • Owner: Stanley Kroenke
  • Operating Income: $102 million

41 | Los Angeles Chargers (NFL)

  • Value: $2.28 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owners: Spanos Family
  • Operating Income: $48 million

38 (tie) | New York Mets (MLB)

  • Value: $2.3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 10%
  • Owners: Fred & Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz
  • Operating Income: $30 million

38 (tie) | Carolina Panthers (NFL)

  • Value: $2.3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: David Tepper
  • Operating Income: $62 million

38 (tie)| Houston Rockets (NBA)

  • Value: $2.3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 5%
  • Owner: Tilman Fertitta
  • Operating Income: $103 million

37 | Brooklyn Nets (NBA)

  • Value: $2.35 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 2%
  • Owners: Mikhail Prokhorov, Joe Tsai
  • Operating Income: $53 million

36 | Indianapolis Colts (NFL)

  • Value: $2.38 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: James Irsay
  • Operating Income: $67 million

35 | Minnesota Vikings (NFL)

  • Value: $2.4 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Zygmunt Wilf
  • Operating Income: $90 million

34 | Oakland Raiders (NFL)

  • Value: $2.42 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 2%
  • Owner: Mark Davis
  • Operating Income: $25 million

33 | Miami Dolphins (NFL)

  • Value: $2.58 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Stephen Ross
  • Operating Income: $56 million

32 | Chelsea (Soccer)

  • Value: $2.58 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 25%
  • Owner: Roman Abramovich
  • Operating Income: $127 million

31 | Seattle Seahawks (NFL)

  • Value: $2.58 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 6%
  • Owners: Pat Allen Trust
  • Operating Income: $71 million

30 | Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)

  • Value: $2.59 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 5%
  • Owners: Daniel Rooney Trust, Art Rooney II
  • Operating Income: $85 million

29 | Baltimore Ravens (NFL)

  • Value: $2.59 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owner: Stephen Bisciotti
  • Operating Income: $107 million

28 | Atlanta Falcons (NFL)

  • Value: $2.6 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 5%
  • Owner: Arthur Blank
  • Operating Income: $113 million

27 | Green Bay Packers (NFL)

  • Value: $2.63 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 3%
  • Owners: shareholder-owned
  • Operating Income: $62 million

26 | Denver Broncos (NFL)

  • Value: $2.65 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 2%
  • Owners: Pat Bowlen Trust
  • Operating Income: $106 million

25 | Manchester City (Soccer)

  • Value: $2.69 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 9%
  • Owner: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Operating Income: $168 million

24 | Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)

  • Value: $2.75 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owners: Jeffrey Lurie
  • Operating Income: $114 million

22 (tie)| Boston Celtics (NBA)

  • Value: $2.8 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 12%
  • Owners: Wycliffe & Irving Grousbeck, Robert Epstein, Stephen Pagliuca
  • Operating Income: $100 million

22 (tie)| Houston Texans (NFL)

  • Value: $2.8 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Robert McNair
  • Operating Income: $161 million

21 | New York Jets (NFL)

  • Value: $2.85 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owner: Robert Wood Johnson IV
  • Operating Income: $130 million

19 (tie) | Chicago Bears (NFL)

  • Value: $2.9 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 2%
  • Owners: McCaskey family
  • Operating Income: $100 million

19 (tie) | Chicago Bulls (NBA)

  • Value: $2.9 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 12%
  • Owner: Jerry Reinsdorf
  • Operating Income: $115 million

18 | San Francisco Giants (MLB)

  • Value: $3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 5%
  • Owner: Charles Johnson
  • Operating Income: $84 million

17 | Bayern Munich (Soccer)

  • Value: $3.02 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: -1%
  • Owners: Club members
  • Operating Income: $129 million

16 | San Francisco 49ers (NFL)

  • Value: $3.05 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owners: Denise DeBartolo York, John York
  • Operating Income: $106 million

14 (tie) | Chicago Cubs (MLB)

  • Value: $3.1 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 7%
  • Owners: Ricketts family
  • Operating Income: $87 million

14 (tie) | Washington Redskins (NFL)

  • Value: $3.1 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owner: Daniel Snyder
  • Operating Income: $122 million

12 (tie) | Los Angeles Rams (NFL)

  • Value: $3.2 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 7%
  • Owner: Stanley Kroenke
  • Operating Income: $68 million

12 (tie) | Boston Red Sox (MLB)

  • Value: $3.2 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 14%
  • Owners: John Henry, Thomas Werner
  • Operating Income: $84 million

10 (tie) | Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)

  • Value: $3.3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 10%
  • Owners: Guggenheim Baseball Management
  • Operating Income: $95 million

10 (tie) | New York Giants (NFL)

  • Value: $3.3 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 0%
  • Owners: John Mara, Steven Tisch
  • Operating Income: $149 million

9 | Golden State Warriors (NBA)

  • Value: $3.5 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 13%
  • Owners: Joe Lacob, Peter Guber
  • Operating Income: $103 million

| Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)

  • Value: $3.7 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 12%
  • Owners: Jerry Buss Family Trusts, Philip Anschutz
  • Operating Income: $147 million

7 | New England Patriots (NFL)

  • Value: $3.8 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 3%
  • Owner: Robert Kraft
  • Operating Income: $235 million

| Manchester United (Soccer)

  • Value: $3.81 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: -8%
  • Owners: Glazer family
  • Operating Income: $238 million

5 | New York Knicks (NBA)

  • Value: $4 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 11%
  • Owner: Madison Square Garden Company
  • Operating Income: $155 million

| Barcelona (Soccer)

  • Value: $4.02 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: -1%
  • Owners: Club members
  • Operating Income: –$37 million

| Real Madrid (Soccer)

  • Value: $4.24 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owners: Club members
  • Operating Income: $112 million

| New York Yankees (MLB)

  • Value: $4.6 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 15%
  • Owners: Steinbrenner family
  • Operating Income: $30 million

| Dallas Cowboys (NFL)

  • Value: $5 billion
  • 1-Year % Change: 4%
  • Owner: Jerry Jones
  • Operating Income: $365 million

Forbes; Kurt Badenhausen

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