Every year, we get to see the contrast between European athletes and those across the rest of the world as Forbes rolls out its rich list.
It marks the one time a year when British audiences unfamiliar with America’s ‘Big Four’ sports realise just how much NBA and NFL stars take home in a year.
However, for the last two years, the man at the top of the list has been a European – Cristiano Ronaldo retained his spot at the pinnacle with his $58m salary augmented with $35m in endorsements for a total of $93m (just shy of £73m).
The full list, released earlier this month, can be found here. However we’ve taken a bit of time to pick out some of the biggest stories.
1. Tiger Woods is still in the top 20
He might have been making headlines for his off-the-course behaviour more than anything he’s done with a golf club, but Brand Tiger is still strong.
The 41-year-old has not won a PGA Tour event since 2013, and earned a salary of ‘just’ $107,000 in the last year, but his $37m in endorsement deals keep him 17th on the list, in between Novak Djokovic and Neymar.
2. Anthony Joshua has announced himself
Just two years ago, Anthony Joshua was awaiting his first ever PPV bout. Fast forward to 2017 and he’s an IBF, WBO and IBO world champion, having stopped Wladimir Klitschko in a fight that broke Sky Box Office PPV records.
The Klitschko fight propelled both competitors into the top 100 – Joshua making it for the first time in 89th and his opponent taking 98th spot.
3. The number of women in the top 100 has actually dropped
In the 2016 list, only two women made the cut. This year there was just one,
With Maria Sharapova losing endorsements following a failed drug test in 2016, something which also put her out of action for much of that year, she has slipped out of the top 100.
Fellow tennis star Serena Williams is left flying the flag for women in sport, taking 51st spot with $8m in salary and $19m in endorsements producing a total of $27m, level with former MLB All-Star Ryan Howard
4. The footballers on the list might not be the ones you’d expect
There are nine football players in the top 100, including three who ply their trade in the Premier League, but there are a few surprises.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar are all there, of course, while Gareth Bale is hot on their heels (and he actually takes home a bigger pay-check than Neymar).
But lower down, you might be surprised to see not one but two Manchester United players – Zlatan Ibrahimovic negotiated well after his free transfer to Old Trafford, coming in well ahead of teammate Wayne Rooney, while the football contingent is rounded out by Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and James Rodriguez – there’s no room for Paul Pogba, despite him becoming the most expensive player in the world when he returned to United last summer.
5. Want big endorsements? Take up tennis
Only four twenty-somethings took home $30m or more in endorsements: NBA stars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are widely considered two of the best players around, while Rory McIlroy has been ranked in golf’s top five since 2014. But the other man to claim the honour? Kei Nishikori.
According to Forbes, the 27-year-old has 16 endorsements, which cumulatively bring him more income than seven of the eight players ranked above him.
Not a single tennis players comes close to the top 25 for earnings, but all six on the Forbes list are in the top quarter when it comes to income for endorsements: Roger Federer ($58m), Nishikori ($30m), Novak Djokovic ($28m), Rafael Nadal ($26m), Serena Williams ($19m) and Andy Murray ($14m).
Here’s the top 10 in full:
- Cristiano Ronaldo (football) – $93m
- LeBron James (basketball) – $82.6m
- Lionel Messi (football) – $80m
- Roger Federer (tennis) – $ 64m
- Kevin Durant (basketball) – $60.6m
- Andrew Luck (NFL) – $50m
- Rory McIlroy (golf) – $50m
- Stephen Curry (basketball) – $47.3m
- James Harden (basketball) – $46.6m
- Lewis Hamilton (F1) – $46m
(Feature Image: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann)