Lionel Messi leads the group of 10 athletes whose combined earnings in 2022 will reach nearly $1 billion, according to Forbes estimates, with NBA basketball players dominating the list, while soccer, boxing and tennis have were represented by one athlete each.
Over the past 12 months, Lionel Messi (35) has accumulated $130 million in sports earnings, leading this list (of the richest athletes in 2022) for the second time in a row.
Messi’s rival, Cristiano Ronaldo (37) – who changed teams in August, moving from Juventus to Manchester United – came in third place in this year’s ranking with $115 million.
Between the two is basketball player LeBron James (37) of the Los Angeles Lakers, with $121.2 million, becoming the tenth athlete ever to surpass $100 million in earnings in a single year, a record achieved already five times by Messi and Ronaldo.
Who are the richest athletes in the world?
The total earnings of the ten athletes this year ranks third, after collective earnings in 2021 were $1.05 billion, and in 2018, $1.06 billion.
Off the field, the top ten athletes included in this ranking have earned approximately $500 million from sponsorships, advertisements, TV appearances or their own businesses.
Lionel Messi, the richest athlete in 2022
So, the richest sportsman in the year 2022 is Lionel Messi (PSG, football). Lionel Messi’s $20 million-a-year deal with Socios is joined by partnerships with Adidas, Budweiser and PepsiCo. In 2021, Messi won the Ballon d’Or, being declared the best footballer in the world, but 2022 was not so generous with him on the pitch, scoring just nine goals in 32 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain, after recording 38 goals in 47 games in his last season for Barcelona.
2nd place. Basketball player Lebron James (Los Angeles Lakers, NBA basketball), with a total of $121.2 million, earned $41.2 million from sports, and $80 million from outside sports, with an estimated net worth of to 850 million dollars. After announcing a deal with Crypto.com earlier this year, James appeared in a Super Bowl commercial alongside his younger, computer-generated version. It also recently invested in Tonal and StatusPRO, a sports tech startup that creates virtual reality training products.
3rd place. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, football). $115 million ($60 million from sports and $55 million from non-sports). Much of that money came from earnings generated by his social media presence. Ronaldo has 690 million followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, his popularity on social media giving him an edge over his sponsors such as Nike, Herbalife and shampoo brand Clear.
4th place. Neymar (PSG, soccer) $95m ($70m from sports and $25m from non-sports) Neymar scored his 400th career goal last November but, as with his Lionel Messi has been criticized by football fans for choosing to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League too early, announcing his retirement after the World Cup in Qatar. Neymar’s off-field income is quite generous, with most of it coming from his collaborations and contracts with Puma, Red Bull, Netflix, involvement in the world of NFTs, signing with the NFTSTAR platform in November 2021 and spending over $1 million on two Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs in one day.
5th place. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors, NBA basketball). 92.8 million dollars. ($45.8 million from sports and 47 million% from non-sports).
6th place. Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets, NBA basketball), $92.1 million ($42.1 million from sports and $50 million from non-sports)
7th place. Roger Federer (tennis player) – $90.7 million ($0.7 million from sports and $90 million from non-sports)
8th place. Canelo Alvarez (boxing) – $90 million ($85 million from sports and $5 million from non-sports)
9th place. Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, American football) – $84 million ($31.9 million from sports and $52 million from non-sports)
10th place. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks, NBA basketball) – $81 million ($39.9 million from sports and $41 million from non-sports)
All amounts presented by Forbes were calculated according to the athletes’ basic salaries between May 1, 2021 and May 1, 2022, as well as according to the athletes’ income from sponsorships or advertisements.