French star Kylian Mbappé reigns supreme while Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo chase international glory one last time.
KJulian Mbappé, the highest paid soccer player on the planet, is no stranger to the World Cup. Just four years ago, he helped France win the tournament for the first time since 1998. It was a coming out party of sorts for the then 19-year-old, who was named the best young player at the event. in Russia.
Qatar 2022 could be a turning point for the now 23-year-old star, ushering in a new wave of popularity and, potentially, an even bigger payday.
“Mbappé’s status on the world stage will be extreme, especially with the EA Sports association, his initial deal [with Nike] and everything that comes with that,” said Rossi Biddle, owner of sports marketing company XtraTimeFC, speaking of his endorsement partners. He added that Mbappé, EA Sports’ cover athlete FIFA 23 video game, is likely to be the face of the World Cup and if France does well, sponsorship interest will skyrocket further.
With 3.6 billion people tuning in for the last World Cup in 2018, the event presents an unparalleled opportunity for the stars of the global game. Across 64 games, the tournament posted an average audience of 191 million. (FIFA chief Gianni Infantino said in May that he expected 5 billion viewers for the 2022 tournament.) As a result, brands are flocking to the World Cup, and the players, Biddle says, offer a barrier to entry. low to the sponsorship side of the event. . The deeper a country progresses, the more exposure their star players get.
Already, Mbappé is one of the most financially successful athletes in the sport. Forbes estimates he will win $128 million for the 2022-23 season before taxes and agent fees. Thanks to a three-year contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain, he will get $110 million between his salary and a portion of his signing bonus this season, according to industry experts. That’s on top of the estimated $18 million Mbappé earns each year from endorsements, including deals with Nike, Dior, Hublot, Oakley, Panini, EA Sports and Sorare.
While Mbappé looks to add a second World Cup win to his resume, two of the game’s biggest stars are still chasing their first, and possibly last, game. Argentina’s Lionel Messi, 35, has already said that 2022 will be his last World Cup. The expectation is the same for Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal, who will turn 38 in February.
Together, the pair have scored hundreds of goals, secured 12 Ballons d’Or and won numerous titles, including the UEFA Champions League. Yet World Cup glory has eluded them. They remain two of the highest-paid players in football, having earned more than $1 billion each in their careers, and are both expected to cross the nine-figure mark in total earnings this season, and Messi is expected to earn $120 million including endorsements. and Ronaldo at $100 million.
For Ronaldo, though, the end may be closer than expected. His attitude and performance with Manchester United have been heavily criticized this season. Ronaldo, who reportedly tried to transfer in the run-up, has struggled to make his club’s first team and clashed with United manager Erik Ten Hag. In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo criticized United, the Glazer family and Ten Hag, saying, “If you don’t respect me, I’ll never respect you.”
His sudden drop in playing time has not diminished his popularity. Ronaldo is the highest earning soccer player off the field at $60 million, back Forbes estimates, with partners that include Nike, Herbalife and Livescore. (The only other player to close is Messi at $55 million.) In July, Ronaldo agreed to an exclusive, multi-year partnership with the crypto exchange Binance, which launched its first NFT collection on Friday. He is also the most popular athlete account on Instagram, with an astonishing 497 million followers.
Rounding out the five highest paid stars playing in Qatar are two more aging stars in Neymar Jr. from Brazil and Robert Lewandowski from Poland. Despite only being 30 years old, Neymar has publicly hinted that 2022 could be his last World Cup, and with Brazil favored to win, he has a chance of going top. Meanwhile, Lewandowski, 34, has been on fire since joining FC Barcelona in an estimated $45 million transfer earlier this year, scoring 18 goals in 18 games started. He is expected to bring in about $35 million this season, with $8 million off the field.
In total, the five highest-paid players at the World Cup are expected to earn a total of $452 million this season, with $173 million of that coming off the field, according to Forbes estimates. If any of them make a deep run, they could add to their earnings not only with more endorsement opportunities but with cash prizes as well—albeit on a much smaller scale. France earned $38 million for winning in 2018 and distributed $11 million among 23 players, an average payout of about $480,000. FIFA will award $440 million in prize money for Qatar 2022, with the winners taking home $42 million.
As for who the crowd is rooting for, Biddle XtraTimeFC has one theory. “I think people want to have another Ronaldo moment,” he said, adding, “Football fans love Messi, soccer fans love Neymar, but off the pitch they don’t necessarily appeal to the common person, where Ronaldo does.”
2022 WORLD CUP HIGHEST PAID PLAYERS
#1. $128 thousand
AGE: 23 | COUNTRY: France | ON FIELD: $110 thousand • OFF THE FIELD: $18 thousand
#2. $120 thousand
AGE: 35 | COUNTRY: Argentina | ON FIELD: $65 thousand • OFF THE FIELD: $55 thousand
#3. $100 thousand
AGE: 37 | COUNTRY: Portugal | ON FIELD: $40 thousand • OFF THE FIELD: $60 thousand
#4. $87 thousand
AGE: 30 | COUNTRY: Brazil | ON FIELD: $55 thousand • OFF THE FIELD: $32 thousand
#5. $35 thousand
AGE: 34 | COUNTRY: Poland | ON FIELD: $27 thousand • OFF THE FIELD: $8 thousand
MORE FROM FORBES