Soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports, so it is no surprise that the top stars make pretty hefty salaries. With free agency looming, there are certain to be a lot of eyes on this year’s World Cup trying to find the next big star who will get the next record-breaking contract. In the meantime, here is a current list of the highest paid soccer players in the world today who have all had record-breaking contracts offered to them at some point in time. Note that this list is comprised solely off of money made from their current contracts, and additional income such as sponsorship money is not factored in.
10: Graziano Pelle (Shandon Luneng)
Paying a handsome transfer fee of £12 million to bring the Italian to Shandon, Pelle reportedly is earning £15 million per year. Graziano is one in a long list of big names that have been drawn to China in recent years in search of wealth and stardom.
9: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Currently earning £15.4 million, after returning from Juventus, Pogba’s first season with Manchester U. didn’t go exactly as planned as many felt he was underperforming considering the money he was making. Pogba has silenced his critics, however, bouncing back in a major way this season, putting on some dazzling performances, and helping to get the Red Devils moving in the right direction again.
8: Kylian Mbappe
The French sensation is a new addition to this list, with his move to PSG last summer, Mbappe is reported to be earning £15.9 million annually. Playing alongside names like Neymar, and Edinson Cavani, if Mbappe continues to impress, it is likely that PSG will be picking up his £166 million buyout option next summer.
7: Hulk (Shanghai SIPG)
Earning a current reported wage of £17.5 million, the Brazilian has been a constant name amongst the highest earners in soccer throughout his career. Before his international teammate Oscar arrived, Hulk’s £45 million transfer fee to Asia had been the most expensive transfer of all time. Hulk has been dominant in China and has expressed a desire to play in the Premier League due to the higher level of competition. Whether or not a big club will be able to make that happens remains to be seen, but if it does, there is a strong chance Hulk’s name will be higher than the number seven spot on this list next year.
6: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
A surprising entrant at number six, the Real Madrid star is reported to earn £18.5 million on a contract that expires in 2021. It has been reported that Ronaldo has requested an increased salary, at least on par with that of his generational counterpart Leo Messi. The two have been debated as the best players of this generation, as well as all time, so for there to be such a gap in wages is understandably frustrating for Ronaldo.
5: Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China)
Yet another big name, swoon by the high price tag of the Chinese Super League, the Argentinian is reported to be making £20.3 million per year. Lavezzi failed to live up to the hype in his first year with Hebei, appearing in just ten games, without netting a single goal. During his second season, however, he has begun to get back to his goal-scoring ways and is proving to fans that he is worth the money he is being paid.
4: Oscar (Shanghai SIPG)
After causing an uproar with his move from Chelsea to Shanghai, his move to the Chinese club became the most expensive Asian transfer of all time. Ridiculed by many for choosing to transfer as he entered his prime at age 24, it is hard to argue with a price tag of £21.1 million annually.
3: Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United)
Sanchez is currently primed to be the Premier League’s top earner once his move to Old Trafford is complete, he will be set to earn £23.4 million annually. A key piece in Arsenal’s FA Cup championship runs in 2015 and 2017, he is expected to continue his success with Old Trafford, proving that he is worth the money he will be paid.
2: Neymar (Paris-Saint Germain)
With his record-breaking move from Barcelona to PSG last summer, it comes as no shock that Neymar finds himself as one of the top earners in the game today. After forking over £198 million to steal him away from Barcelona, PSG is currently paying Neymar £31.7 million annually, and up until his injury in February, he was worth every penny. How he will bounce back remains to be seen, but you can bet his play in the upcoming World Cup will be something everyone is anxious to see.
1: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
What shouldn’t come as much of a surprise here, after signing his contract extension with Barcelona last year, Messi is set to earn £40.5 Million until 2021. While Messi certainly has the resume to earn such an income, at this point in his career, many consider him to be overpaid due to the fact that his level of play will soon be on the decline. Whether or not that happens, Barcelona fans can rest easy knowing that their star player is being taken good care of by the club.