Top 4 Highest-Paid Athletes In The World For 2021

Even as the pandemic presented a grim outlook, these four sports stars still shine brightly.

Jun 21, 2021 | By Joseph Low
From left: Cristiano Ronaldo, Conor McGregor, Lionel Messi

Just as the food and beverage industry suffered tremendous losses last year due to the pandemic, the sports industry also took a hit as live events were unable to proceed in light of social distancing measures. As a result, the multi-billion dollar industry had to suspend many of their seasons, which means players either took a pay cut or do not have any earnings at all. According to the economic modelling firm, Emsi, the loss in revenue comes close to US$29 billion. 

Despite the grim situation, here are four exceptional athletes who still managed to bring home more than US$100 million over the past year, according to Forbes.

Conor McGregor (MMA): US$180 million

Sitting at the top of the list is MMA fighter Conor McGregor. Aside from his income earned from the octagon, he earned US$22 million from the match against Dustin Poirier, McGregor’s fortunes mainly came from his whiskey brand, Proper No. Twelve. It is reported that he earned US$158 million from selling his stake to Proximo Spirits. Furthermore, Forbes also noted that McGregor was the third athlete after Roger Federer and Tiger Woods to make more than US$70 million off the field in a single year while still competing. 

Lionel Messi (Soccer): US$130 million

In a leaked copy of the contract between Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona, it is revealed that the soccer star earns US$168.5 million annually but Forbes puts it at US$97 million, while raking in US$33 million off the pitch. Aside from all that, Messi also has a lifetime deal with Adidas, which amounts to US$12 million a year, and Ginny, a fashion line designed by Tommy Hilfiger’s sister Ginny Hilfiger. Not to mention, he also owns properties in Spain and Argentina.

Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer): US$120 million

The first person to amass 500 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in February, and a month later he overshadowed Brazillian soccer star Pelé’s goal tally. His contract with Juventus sees him earn US$70 million on the field while the remaining US$50 million comes from his CR7 brand and various endorsements with brands such as Tag Heuer, Clear Haircare and Nike — Ronaldo has a lifetime deal with the mega sports brand and is paid US$20 million according to CBS Sport.

Dak Prescott (American football): US$107.5 million

The American quarterback broke records when he signed his US$160 million contract extension for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. From the record sum, US$66 million was the signing bonus and it is the highest ever signed in the history of NFL. Additionally, Forbes reports that Prescott’s average salary stands at US$40 million. Endorsement deals with Sleep Number, 7/11 and DirecTV add US$10 million. CNBC also reports that he has a 20% state in Walk-On restaurant franchises. 

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