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The Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes of 2020

It’s that time of the year again when Forbes releases the list of the Top 100 highest-paid athletes in the world.

For the last 12 months, tennis superstar Roger Federer emerged as the world’s top-earning athlete with a total of $106.3M earned during the previous year. This marks the Swiss tennis master’s highest ranking ever. He was fifth here last year and his previous highest ranking was #2 in 2013. Federer also became the first tennis player to top the Forbes 100 list.

Federer earned a massive $100M from endorsement deals. He becomes the second athlete to earn at least $100M from his sponsors, the other being Tiger Woods. He has a total of 13 sponsorship deals which pay him from a range of $3M to $30M, according to Forbes.

Roger Federer $106.3M

Roger Federer unseated Lionel Messi on top of sports’ money mountain after Forbes named the Swiss tennis legend as the highest-paid athlete for 2020. Federer becomes the first tennis player in the history of the rankings to hold the #1 position. The 20-time Grand Slam winner boasts of the largest endorsement portfolio in the world with a total of $100M worth of deals.

Federer is currently ranked 4th in the world tennis rankings behind Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Dominic Thiem. The 38-year old made a total of $6.3M while playing in the tennis courts, winning his 100th title and 1,200 match in 2019. Federer made the Wimbledon Finals in 2019 and lost to Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2020 Australian open before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Federer has deals with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo, Swiss companies like Nationale Suisse, Credit Suisse, Rolex, Lindt, Sunrise, and Jura Elektroapparat. His deal with Uniqlo is reportedly worth $300M.

Cristiano Ronaldo $105M

Cristiano Ronaldo ranks second on the money list this year. The 35-year old soccer superstar played nine seasons for Real Madrid before signing a four-year deal worth $64M per year with Juventus in 2018. The Portugal captain is the most followed athlete in social media with a total following of 400M.

$45M of Ronaldo’s earnings came from endorsements. His chief sponsors include Nike, Tag Heuer, Clear Haircare, DAZN, Electronic Arts, MTG, and Herbalife. Ronaldo’s deal with Nike is worth $1B over his lifetime and the deal could go on for decades after he retires from football.

Lionel Messi $104M

Lionel Messi was last year’s highest-paid athlete on this list. The 32-year old Spanish and Barcelona team captain is the highest-paid soccer player when it comes to club earnings with a total of $72M in salaries and bonuses during the past 12 months. Messi’s current contract with the Spanish football giants reportedly pays him an average salary of $610K per week.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner made a total of $32M in endorsements during the past year. The bulk of that comes from his lifetime deal with sports company Adidas. Messi also has endorsement deals with Pepsi, Gatorade, Huawei, Gillette, and Turkish Airlines among others.

Neymar $95.5M

Neymar is the third-highest goalscorer in Brazil behind Pele and Ronaldo. The 28-year old forward for Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain side captained Brazil to their first Olympic gold medal in 2016 and is the third highest-paid footballer in the world. In 2019, he was named by ESPN as the fourth most famous athlete on the planet.

The Brazilian’s current deal with PSG is worth $350M through 2022. His transfer from Barcelona to PSG was valued at $263M, the most expensive for such move, and which the French club paid before signing him. Neymar’s endorsements in the last 12 months have netted him $25M. These include deals with major companies like Nike, Gillette, Beats Electronics, and Red Bull.

LeBron James $88.2M

The Los Angeles Lakers’ King James comes in at #5 and he is the highest-paid American athlete of 2020. James is also the highest earner in the North American Sports Professional leagues and his $60M worth of endorsements is tied for the highest among American athletes.

The 35-year old James played his 15th NBA season in 2019-20 and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference. James’ endorsements include a $1B lifetime deal with Nike for whom he has a LeBron line of sneakers. King James has also been a Coca-Cola company endorser since 2003 and he also has deals with Upper Deck, Beats Electronics, State Farm Insurance, and most recently Rimowa. He also turned a sponsorship deal with Blaze Pizza to an ownership deal.

Stephen Curry $77.4M

The Golden State Warriors’ sharpshooter Stephen Curry is 6th in the list and is the second-highest earning NBA player of 2020. Chef Curry’s $30.4M salary is the highest in the league this year and he earned it despite playing just a total of five games during the 2019-20 season due to injury. The bulk of Curry’s $44M endorsement deals comes from his exclusive shoe contract with Under Armor. Curry is also has a production company called Unanimous Media which has a deal with Sony.

Kevin Durant $63.9M

Kevin Durant didn’t play a single game for the Brooklyn Nets this season but he is still the 7th highest-paid athlete in the world. Durant left the Golden State Warriors after the 2018-19 season to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. He missed the entire 2019-20 season while recuperating an Achilles injury. Durant’s $28.9M salary makes him the second-highest paid NBA player on this list behind Stephen Curry. KD is one of the top endorsers of Nike. In 2014, he signed a 10-year deal worth a reported $300M that includes a $50M retirement package. KD also endorses Alaska Airlines, Google, Beats Electronics, and American Family Insurance.

Tiger Woods $62.3M

Tiger Woods makes 8th place despite earning just a total of $2.3M on the golf course. The former multiple-time highest-paid athlete in the world is one of the world’s top endorsers. Woods’ $60M endorsement income is tied for the highest among American athletes and ranks just second to Roger Federer’s $100M worth of endorsements for the year. Woods is one of the most popular endorsers for Nike and despite his image taking a hit when he had his issues, Woods is back. His current partners include Taylor Made, Bridgestone Golf, and Monster Energy.

Kirk Cousins $60.5M

The Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins enters the list at #9 and he is the highest-paid NFL athlete on this list. The 31-year old Michigan State standout signed a fully guaranteed three-year $84M deal with the Vikings in 2018, hence his $58M salary/earnings for 2020 is the highest among American Football players. Cousins’ endorsement deals are with Nike, Bose, and Pizza Ranch.

Carson Wentz $59.1M

Carson Wentz signed a four-year extension deal worth $128M in June 2019 including $107M in guaranteed money with the Philadelphia Eagles last June 2019. The 27-year old was the Eagles’ 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft after leading North Dakota State to back to back FCS championships in 2014 and 2015. Wentz’s sponsors include Nike, NRG, Bobcat, Amazon, Sanford Health, and Bose.

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