For the first time since 2017 (and third time overall), Cristiano Ronaldo has topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, earning himself a Guinness World Records title for the highest annual earnings for an athlete in 2023.
In the 12 months leading up to 1 May 2023 (the date by which most sports seasons are concluded), Ronaldo is estimated to have earned $136 million (£107.5 M).
Ronaldo takes the title from Messi, who was the highest-paid athlete of 2022 with an estimated $130 million (£103 M).
Ronaldo’s record-breaking income is comprised of $46 million (£35 M) in on-field earnings and $90 million (£68.5 M) in off-field earnings.
Following a somewhat underwhelming second spell at Manchester United, Ronaldo departed in January 2023 to Saudi Arabian team Al-Nassr. He received a bumper contract which nearly doubled his salary to an estimated $75 million (£57 M).
However, his on-field earnings are dwarfed by his off-field earnings. In addition to his lifetime contract with Nike, Ronaldo also makes money through his CR7-branded merchandise.
Forbes calculates athletes’ earnings based on data obtained from industry insiders, news reports and salary databases.
The on-field earnings figures include salaries, prize money and bonuses, whilst the off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, memorabilia and licensing income, plus cash returns from any businesses in which the athlete has a significant interest.
They do not include interest payments or dividends from investment income, but they do account for payouts from equity stakes which athletes have sold.
Rounding out the top three highest paid athletes of 2022-23 are two other football/soccer players: Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé.
Messi came in second with $130 million, split evenly between $65 million in on-field earnings and $65 million in off-field earnings.
In comparison, Mbappé’s on-field earnings of $100 million contribute heavily to his total of $120 million.
LeBron James, in fourth place with $119 million ($44.5 M on-court earnings; $75 M off-court), set a record for the highest annual earnings for a basketball player in 2023, whilst fifth-placed Canelo Alvarez set a record for the highest annual earnings for a boxer in 2023 with $110 million ($100 M in-ring earnings; $10 M outside).
Elsewhere, despite both retiring in September 2022, Roger Federer and Serena Williams had the highest annual earnings for a male tennis player in 2023 and the highest annual earnings for a female tennis player in 2023 respectively.
Roger, who placed ninth on the overall list, earned a total of $95.1 million, although this was almost entirely comprised of $95 million in off-court earnings, compared to just $100,000 in on-court earnings.
Similarly, Serena, in 49th place, earned a total of $45.3 million, made up of $45 million in off-court earnings and $300,000 on-court.