The Highest-Paid World Cup Players – Forbes

Ahead of his country’s opening World Cup match against Germany yesterday, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo answered reporters’ questions about his availability after he was seen getting his knees iced and practiced with it wrapped last week.

“I would be the first to tell the coach if I were unable to play, I would never put my career at risk even for a World Cup,” the reigning FIFA player of the year said.

The quadrennial tournament is the grandest stage where a footballer’s love of sport and love of country collide. This is Ronaldo’s third World Cup appearance, his second as captain of his team.

But could the 29-year old striker be blamed for pushing national pride aside to protect his real bread and butter, Real Madrid? In the last year the club paid the prolific goal scorer $52 million in salary and bonus as part of a 5-year contract signed in September 2013 worth $206 million. Combined with the $28 million he made from commercial endorsements from the likes of Nike, Samsung, Toyota, Fly Emirates and Tag Heuer, the $80 million he earned make him The Highest-Paid World Cup Player, the second highest-paid athlete in the world.

National team members are usually compensated for the World Cup, but the amount varies by country and is typically paid in the form of a bonus, escalating as the team advances to certain rounds.

Spain’s largest paper, El País, reported its country is paying its players the biggest bonus – each will receive $977,000 if they repeat and win this World Cup. That works out to be a salary of $140,000 per game.

In contrast, Ronaldo made $1.02 million per game for each of his 51 appearances for Real Madrid in all competitions during the 2013/14 season. Portugal’s bonus structure is unknown but even if it is the same as Spain’s it’s easy to see the financial incentive for the sport’s most valuable to risk aggravating a knee injury and potentially sideline him from La Liga play is lacking.

Spain’s bonus is a decimal too on the $21.3 million its striker Fernando Torres made last year between playing for Chelsea and pitching products for his main sponsors, Adidas and Pepsi, to rank No. 7 on our list.

Combined the top 10 highest paid players in the World Cup earned $323 million in the last year, $226 million in salary and bonuses.  Considering FIFA plans to divvy up only $200 million to its members in bonuses for their participation in the World Cup, it’s easy to see why there is little room to have a discussion about paying any players commensurate with what their club can.

Full Coverage: The Business Of The World Cup

However if players are looking to put a price tag on the invaluable glory and honor just to wear their country’s jersey, they need only look at their sponsors. Shoe companies, the biggest spenders on players led by Nike and Adidas, plan and budget entirely around the competition and are counting.

In Spring 2013, Adidas kicked off the icon line of Lionel Messi products, only the second time the company has done so for one of its soccer stars (the first time was with David Beckham) and an 18-month long campaign related to and extending beyond the World Cup. In addition to a limited edition commemorative Messi shoe to mark the occasion of him breaking an 87-year old record to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer, the company released his World Cup boot and has two more dropping this year. The company is projecting a 30 percent increase in sales in North America based on this.

In return for their heavy investment in the four-time FIFA player of the year, Adidas’ contract with the 26-year old Argentine includes bonuses for breaking records, number of matches he plays, and participating in events such as the World Cup. It’s a win-win for the company and player. The World Cup is estimated to be seen by 3.2 billion people worldwide, looking at his goal-scoring feet. Messi gets to take home an estimated $10 million a year from his largest sponsor. It’s an amount that helped him land at the No. 2 spot on our list of highest paid World Cup players with a total $64.7 million.

To compile our list of the best-paid, we spoke with players’ agents, talent agencies, commercial sponsors, soccer experts in the U.S. and Europe, and looked through sponsor filings.  Figures are from salary, bonuses and sponsorships earned during the players’ European 2013/14 campaigns.

Follow me on Twitter.

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.