BUSINESS IS BOOMING in football. Firmly entrenched as the world’s most popular and most played sport, there’s plenty of money to go around. With the growth of the sport worldwide, and more recently, the rise of the Saudi Pro League, players are being paid more than ever for their showstopping skills, and their net worth’s are skyrocketing.
There’s even greater wealth to be acquired off the field however, as a handful of footballers have transferred their athletic prowess into savvy business judgement. With athletes now chasing lucrative sponsorships, ownership deals, and entrepreneurial pursuits long after they’ve hung up their boots. The money-making no longer ends with sporting retirement.
So, who is the most loaded footballer of all time? You almost certainly won’t be able to guess. Let’s take a look at the top ten.
Which footballers have the highest net worth’s?
All figures are in AUD.
10. Kylian Mbappé – $235 million
Kylian Mbappé might already be the world’s best footballer, and at only 24 years of age, he has the world at his feet. Already a World Cup winner and runner-up—the latter result occurring despite him scoring a hat-trick in the final—Mbappé’s future is locked in at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
The prolific forward rejected a move to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, opting instead for a contract extension with PSG that will see him earning $120 million AUD per year. Adding to Mbappé’s impressive net worth is sponsorship deals with Nike, Hublot and EA Sports. It’s safe to say that Mbappé could retire today and still likely never be strapped for cash.
9. Ronaldo Nazario – $250 million
Ronaldo Nazario—not to be confused with Cristiano—was the first Ronaldo to light up the footballing world, and he was paid handsomely for it. The man better known as R9 was a key feature in Brazil’s 1994 and 2002 World Cup winning lineups, and he’s cemented a place as one of the greatest players of all time.
Ronaldo has used his immense career earnings to reinvest in the sport that made him rich. He is the majority owner of Real Valladolid, a team in Spain’s top division, and owns a controlling stake in his boyhood club, Cruzeiro.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimović – $300 million
Swedish titan Zlatan Ibrahimović’s career has taken him across the globe, with stints in Italy, Spain, France, England, The Netherlands, and the USA, just to name a few. At 41 years of age, Zlatan is still playing—not that he needs to, mind you.
Through a combination of spending more than 20 years as a pro-footballer earning ludicrously high salaries, a successful autobiography, and countless sponsorships, Zlatan has landed a spot on this list. He’s also part-owner of Hammarby IF, a football club in his native Sweden, meaning he has space to move up this list if his investments pay off.
7. Neymar – $310 million
Neymar first rose to prominence as a teenager, with his electrifying skillset earning him a transfer to FC Barcelona. There he won the Champions League, before switching to Paris Saint Germain in a move that remains the most expensive transfer in football history. Neymar spent most of his career as the world’s third best-player behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Long touted as the heir apparent to their thrones, Neymar never quite eclipsed the superstar pair. Instead, he’s completed a move to Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia at just 31 years of age. Don’t feel too sorry for Neymar though, his contract with Al-Hilal is earning him more than $450 million AUD per year, making him the highest salaried footballer of all time, and a certainty to rocket up this list.
6. Dave Whelan – $345 million
Unless you’re ultra-obsessed with all the intricacies of English Football’s fabled history, you may not have heard the name Dave Whelan, and we won’t hold it against you. Whelan played for the middling clubs of Blackburn Rovers and Crewe Alexandra in the ’50s and ’60s, and never established himself as a particularly noteworthy athlete.
Whelan retired from football at just 29 years of age. Not due to a career-ending injury, but because he wanted to focus on his burgeoning supermarket chain, Whelan discount stores. Which, while not as glamourous as the footballing life, was far more financially rewarding. Whelan sold his supermarket chain before acquiring a sports store franchise, a fitness chain, and eventually re-entering the world of football as owner of Wigan Athletic.
5. Lionel Messi – $625 million
When he finally lifted the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Lionel Messi seemingly ended the GOAT debate once and for all by one-upping Cristiano Ronaldo and claiming the one trophy which had eluded him for so long. But Messi’s Portuguese counterpart is getting the last laugh, at least in terms of net worth, as he finishes above Messi on this list.
Nevertheless, Messi’s net worth is nothing to baulk at. With a salary of $84 million AUD, Messi is the highest paid player in MLS by a wide margin. And at this stage in his career, he has nothing left to do but reel in even more cash.
4. David Beckham – $630 million
The subject of an eponymous hit Netflix docuseries, David Beckham’s financial savvy is on full display at the moment. A sensational player throughout his storied career, through a combination of his on-field skill and off-field exploits, Beckham’s name was always in the headlines, and it’s stayed there long after he retired.
Beckham has transcended sports, with his covetable sartorial sense and celebrity status building him a reputation as a global fashion icon and cultural force. A testament to his immense wealth, Beckham has reinvested in football and owns Inter Miami, the club that the man one spot above him on this list plays for.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – $780 million
Known across the globe as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo is just as well known as a brand. CR7’s Instagram following of 607 million users is second to only Instagram itself on the platform. What this means is Ronaldo’s massive audience leaves marketing departments drooling and always has global brands rushing to offer the footballer hefty endorsement deals.
Ronaldo is also one of the highest paid current players in terms of salary, with his switch to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr earning him almost $330 million AUD per year.
2. Mathieu Flamini – $21.8 billion
Mathieu Flamini made quite a career for himself as a footballer—making appearances for some of the world’s biggest clubs, including Arsenal, AC Milan, and Marseille, and even being capped by the French national team on three occasions—but his sporting salaries are not what’s netting him such a high place on this list, and they pale in comparison to the wealth he’s acquired from his entrepreneurial talents and keen business sense.
Flamini is the co-founder and CEO of GF Biochemicals, the leading global producer of levulinic acid, a sustainable alternative to oil-based products like plastics and fuels—quite the lucrative business as it turns out. Flamini is now worth more than any club he ever played for.
1. Faiq Bolkiah – $31.2 billion
We know what you’re thinking—who? And that’s a reasonable response, because a little-known 25-year-old footballer who plays in the Thai League 1 is not who you’d expect to top this list. Assuredly, we haven’t made a mistake, Faiq Bolkiah has the highest net worth of any footballer in history. So, how did he do it?
Bolkiah is by no means an exemplary talent. He has spent time in Chelsea’s youth academy and briefly played in Portugal, but he’s occupied most of his career in Thailand, and no, the Thai league has not been paying stratospheric salaries right under our noses. Bolkiah’s real claim to fame is his familial relations. His uncle is the Sultan of Brunei—a tiny nation with an incredibly rich royal family on the island of Borneo—which makes Bolkiah the Prince of Brunei, and a very wealthy man indeed—if not a particularly exceptional footballer.