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Who would have thought: In spite of the global pandemic, which paralysed a lot of things and also caused various cancellations of popular sports events, several athletes achieved record earnings.

Forbes investigated the income of the top athletes from May 2020 to May 2021 and found substantial numbers. A differentiation is made between "on-the-field earnings" and "off-the-field earnings". The "off-the-field earnings" are based on estimates and include sponsoring and advertising deals, for example. However, these account for an ever larger share - while they account for a total of USD 1.04 billion among the top 50 athletes this year, the figure in 2012 was just USD 556 million.

Who has made the most money? You can find the top 5 best paid athletes here:


5. LeBron James:
$96.5 million

One of the best and most famous basketball players in the world doesn't just earn his living on the court. Although he is among the five best paid basketball players on the court in 2021, the majority of his earnings comes from sponsorship contracts. LeBron has not only been advertising for Nike for many years, but also signed a contract recently with Pepsi. The 36-year-old American is currently on his way to becoming a billionaire, while he continues to show unbelievable sporting performance.


4. Dak Prescott:
$107.5 million

Thanks to his four-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott is now one of the best paid players in the NFL. The signing bonus of the contract alone, of USD 66 million, makes a significant contribution to Prescott's earnings. The deal has a total volume of USD 164 million - a clear sign of how much the Cowboys believe in Prescott. In spite of deals with brands like 7/11 or Sleep Number, the majority of his income actually comes from "on-the-field earnings".


3. Cristiano Ronaldo:
$120 million

Many presumably already expected CR7 – the 36-year-old Portuguese player had concluded a four-year contract with Juventus some time ago, which was to bring in USD 64 million for him. However, the prospective end of this contract is coming up in 2022. His lifelong deal with Nike and his globally well-known brand CR7 is also polishing up his annual income significantly.


2. Lionel Messi: 
$130 million

The Argentinian made headlines when he wanted to leave the Barcelona football club. In any case, Messi ensured an entry in the history of the club – with an unimaginable 672 goals. The contract with Barcelona then officially expired at the end of June 2021. The reasons for the failure of a joint future were "economic and structural" barriers – apparently, the club now not even able to continue paying Messi half of his previous salary. Apart from his professional income, Messi is making additional money thanks to his contract with adidas and his The Messi lifestyle brand.


1. Conor McGregor:
$180 million

Anyone who knows the game Dystopia: Contest of Heroes, presumably also knows the UFC Fighter, Conor McGregor. He leads the ranking of the Forbes "Highest Paid Athletes" – though somewhat controversially. A part of his income is from endorsement deals, such as the Dystopia or DraftKings game. However, the majority comes from his own whisky brand, Proper 12. Professional earnings naturally also make a considerable contribution to this – the fight with Dustin Poirier in January 2021 earned him USD 22 million, in spite of a defeat. In 2016, McGregor announced that he would overtake Cristiano Ronaldo as the best paid athlete one day - and the 33-year-old has now done just that.