Few would argue that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Just a quick look at the viewership numbers from the major tournaments can put any discussion to bed.
Naturally, the ever-increasing interest has made the sport into a global phenomenon and has allowed the teams to continuously drive up their profits.
And while clubs now are making more from merchandise, ticket prices, and TV money than ever before, they also have record expenditures. This is mainly caused by the fact that if you want to buy a top player, you need to cough up crazy amounts of cash.
We’ll probably never settle the debate on whether they deserve that kind of money, but it’s true that they have the popularity and star power to both lead teams to the big trophies and attract big crowds to the stadiums.
In this post, I will highlight the players who are entering 2020 as the best-paid pros in the sport. I will look at both their annual salaries and the endorsements that contribute to their net worth.
I will leave it up to you to decide which players on the list deserve their compensations. I think you will find that most names on the list will be the best player on any team but also that sometimes a big check doesn’t translate to good performances on the pitch.
Without further delay, I present to you the list of the highest-paid soccer players in 2020.
Several years ago, it would have been a major surprise for Mohamed Salah to enter such a conversation. We’d all known he was talented ever since he was plying his trade for Swiss outfit FC Basel, but few would have predicted that he could reach the current heights.
I have to say that Salah’s ascent to the top wasn’t always a smooth ride. He failed to impress when Jose Mourinho brought him to Chelsea where he only remained as a decent option from the bench.
His stint with AS Roma was brighter, but there weren’t any signs that Salah had the potential to turn into a world-class player.
This changed when Jurgen Klopp signed him for Liverpool. The Egyptian immediately slotted into the side and became the focal point of a deadly offense.
Salah finished his first season in Merseyside with an incredible 44 goals in 52 games, shattering numerous scoring records along the way. This quickly prompted the club to give him the sort of contract that you just can’t turn down.
Salah’s incredible rise has also made him an attractive option for big companies. This has resulted in him driving up his annual endorsement deals to a staggering $9m. He is associated with multiple juggernauts like Adidas, Uber, and Vodafone.
It’s looking good for the player on both the soccer and the money front, and I won’t be surprised if he appears on the list of highest-paid soccer players next year as well.
Bale’s situation at Real Madrid has been a hot topic for years now. When the Spanish giants signed him from Tottenham in 2013, it was expected that he would be a central piece for many seasons to come.
That didn’t quite prove to be the case, but the Welsh superstar is still on the books at Madrid and making a handsome living out of it.
The contract extension he signed in 2016 means that Bale enters 2020 just one place shy of making the top ten shortlist.
I don’t want to say that the player has been absolutely useless for Madrid. He was a big part of the squad that won three consecutive Champions League trophies and has scored over 100 goals for the club.
Despite this, he hasn’t lived up to the initial expectations, and it will be a huge surprise if Real Madrid doesn’t move him before the end of his current contract in 2022.
While Bale might not have achieved the wanted success in Spain, things have not been bad on the endorsements front. The player still has mega-deals with giants like Adidas, EA Sports, and Lucozade.
The Welshman is not exactly in the brightest of spotlights right now, but he remains part of the elite and will probably still be among the top soccer earners even if his lucrative contract at Madrid is cut short.
The French forward has long been touted as a world-class player, but his switch to Barcelona in 2019 gave him a place among the big earners as well.
Griezmann was a great player for Atletico Madrid, but it was evident that at some point he will seek to join a bigger club in an attempt to win more trophies.
It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will be able to become a Barcelona legend, but he now has the contract that fits his status in the game.
Griezmann is a World Cup winner with France and has twice been voted in 3rd place for the Ballon d’Or.
His talents on the pitch are unquestionable, but he has been a hit off the pitch as well. The player is one of the top faces of brands like Puma, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, and Huawei.
The German playmaker is probably one of the most divisive figures in the sport. His character, style of play, and political comments can spark a fiery debate among even the calmest of soccer fans.
Whether you think Ozil is lazy or has a rotten attitude, you would probably agree that on his day, he can be one of the best midfielders in the game.
The argument that he hasn’t had a lot of those days in an Arsenal shirt is valid, but the club still decided they would build around the German when they handed him a massive contract in January 2018.
The deal halted months of speculation over the future of the star, but many believe that the player has not done enough to justify his wages since then.
We are yet to see how Ozil’s story with Arsenal will end, but I don’t think he is in a hurry to turn his back on the amount of money the club is giving him.
Off the pitch, there are a lot of brands that are reluctant to associate themselves with the German. However, he still remains one of the top Adidas endorsements and has a multi-million deal with Mercedes-Benz as well.
At his age, Mbappe should only be starting his professional career, but it already feels like he is an established superstar.
He was one of the best players in France’s World Cup-winning team and has won a host of domestic trophies and individual awards for his performances with PSG.
After spending a year on loan in Paris, the club secured Mbappe’s services until 2021, handing him a deal to match his world-class potential.
Unlike many other young players who sign big contracts, Mbappe’s form has continued to improve, and he is now widely regarded as the brightest talent in the sport.
The kid looks destined for the very top of the game, and if he stays healthy, I can only expect a trophy-laden career and a permanent place among soccer’s top earners.
Certainly the most surprising entry on my list of highly paid soccer players, Alexis Sanchez was a great player for Barcelona, and he became a fan favorite when he switched to the Premier League with Arsenal.
He spent four seasons at the Emirates, scoring 80 goals in 166 games, but his team’s inability to challenge for the big trophies frustrated him.
In January 2018, Manchester United saw a chance to snatch Arsenal’s best player, and they did so by offering the Chilean one of the biggest contracts in Premier League history.
To United’s disappointment, however, Sanchez did not bring the same kind of performances to Old Trafford. The goals dried up, and the winger was becoming a huge liability with his knack for losing possession in key areas.
After just five goals in 45 games and a couple of incidents in training, United was ready to offload the player. There was no shortage of suitors, but it was evident that his astronomical wages would be a big obstacle.
With time running out, United struck a loan deal with Inter Milan but was still left to pay more than half of Sanchez’s salary.
Banking on the Chilean has put the club in a very tough situation, and it doesn’t look like they’ll ever get their money’s worth.
Alexis looks to be the big winner here, and his multi-million deal with Nike is not hurting his bank account either.
I’ve never really associated the little Spanish magician with soccer’s highest earners. Iniesta has always been all about playing the right way and winning trophies. And despite being a key figure in several different Barcelona teams during the years, he was never on top of the club’s wage pyramid.
This changed after he agreed to move to Japanese club Vissel Kobe. It was a very expensive but highly effective coup by the J League team. Iniesta’s huge reputation in the sport and enormous social media presence not only propelled the team’s popularity but had a positive effect on the entire league.
It’s no secret that the Spaniard moved to Japan for the money, but can you blame him? He has been one of the most successful soccer players of our time, and he deserves to cash in on all the years of relentless effort he has put in.
With his mega salary and the deal he inked with automobile brand Nissan, Iniesta will enjoy a huge boost to his retirement funds, while Japanese soccer will benefit from a world-famous ambassador. All good in my view.
Another prominent figure in France’s World Cup triumph of 2018, Pogba was en route to becoming a real top player during his stint with Juventus but really joined the elite after returning to his boyhood club Manchester United in 2016.
The transfer sum paid by United was a staggering $116.6m and made Pogba the club’s highest earner at the time.
The player possesses huge talent, but whether he deserves these wages is still a hot topic of debate. It’s clear that he needs to have a certain setting in order to perform, and he wasn’t getting that with Jose Mourinho at the helm.
Once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins, Pogba’s form transformed completely, and he started showing signs of how influential he can be on the pitch when he’s on song.
In any case, the player has done enough to convince clubs that he can be a world-beater, so even if it doesn’t work out for him with United, I still think Pogba will command high wages wherever he chooses to go.
As for the endorsements front, the player still has a lot of ground to cover before he joins the big superstars. Although he is considered to be one of the best young players in soccer, he still can’t land any notable sponsorships aside from his deal with Adidas.
We are entering the big leagues, and the first one on the 2020 winners’ podium is Neymar. The Brazilian forward is widely considered as a certain future Ballon d’Or winner and a natural successor to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He has been among the sport’s biggest earners ever since he left Santos to sign with Barcelona. After spending four years at the Nou Camp, Neymar dropped one of the biggest transfer bombs in history.
The astronomical transfer fee meant that Neymar became the most expensive soccer player at the time, and the wages associated with his five-year contract are a big reason he is the third-highest-paid athlete in 2020.
I say they are a big reason since a large percentage of Neymar’s income comes from sponsorship deals. He is the face of brands such as Beats by Dre, Apple, McDonald’s, Red Bull, and Nike.
It’s hard to tell where Neymar will land next or if he will be able to create a lasting club dynasty during his career. But one thing is certain.
His unbelievable talent and his success on the endorsements front will most likely keep him at the top of the pile for as long as he’s active.
What can we say about CR7? The Portuguese superstar has carved out one of the most impressive legacies in the history of soccer and is considered by many as the best athlete to ever play the sport.
After conquering every competition and collecting numerous individual accolades with Man United and Real Madrid, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner decided to move to Juventus in 2018.
Now in the twilight stage of his career, he will probably not recapture his goalscoring form of the past, but his decision to stay in Europe is admirable.
He could’ve easily gotten more money somewhere else, but he decided to continue competing for the big trophies at the top level. And why not?
Cristiano has always been ambitious and very passionate about winning, and money alone can’t change that. Plus, it’s not like he will be running out of cash anytime soon.
His wages at Juventus are still incredibly high, and he is the undisputed number one in soccer when it comes to sponsorship deals. CR7 is the only soccer player to ink a lifetime deal with Nike which is worth around $1 billion in total. LeBron James and Michael Jordan are the only other athletes to have signed such a contract with the sports brand.
On top of that, Ronaldo has affiliations with companies such as Herbalife, DAZN, Altice, MTG, and dozens of others. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of the player’s enormous portfolio on that front.
The player also has a record global following on social media and has launched his own brands for clothing and footwear.
Cristiano Ronaldo has it all, and I’m sure it’s not the last time he’ll be high on this list of highest-paid soccer stars.
This player has defined the modern era of soccer and has been Cristiano Ronaldo’s perfect rival. The short and humble Messi versus the athletic and arrogant Ronaldo was practically what European soccer was all about for years.
I’m not going to get into the eternal debate of who is better; I think it’s too early to make that conclusion. The two have been constantly leapfrogging each other both on and off the pitch, and this list is no different.
In 2020, the first place belongs to Messi. The Argentinian signed a mind-blowing contract extension with Barcelona two years ago, and it is still the most lucrative contract in soccer. When you add the huge endorsement deals that Messi has signed along the way, he is practically the highest-paid athlete in any sport!
The numbers may seem completely ludicrous, but if there’s one player that deserves that kind of pay, it’s Messi. Ronaldo may be the most athletic player we’ve seen, but Leo has to be the most naturally gifted one.
His individual awards and the times he single-handedly won trophies for Barcelona speak for themselves. We will probably never see a talent like Messi again, and in this age of soccer, this kind of talent translates to big bucks.
Whether we like it or not, it’s hard to argue that the Argentinian doesn’t deserve that kind of pay. He has worked extremely hard, and soccer has always been his first priority. His overall contribution to the sport is immeasurable, and he will forever be remembered as one of the best.
For now, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after winning his sixth Ballon d’Or in 2019, so unless something huge happens, I expect to find Messi in the same spot next year.
I hope exploring the money side of top-level soccer has been an interesting topic for you. Watching these players play is still my biggest priority, but money isn’t going anywhere, so we might as well embrace it.
Thank you for staying until the end, and if you want more soccer content, make sure you regularly visit our blog for all the latest news, analysis, and betting odds!
Elias Wagner has been a soccer fan since he was a young boy. He still has a huge passion for the sport itself as well as betting on it and writing about it.
Outside of soccer, Elias also enjoys other sports including basketball, tennis, and snooker. He's been writing for GamblingSites.com since 2018.