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Survey: Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic among top five highest paid athletes in the world

Apr 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EST

Will Ronaldo win his first-ever Champions League title with Real Madrid this season? AP

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are three of the world’s five highest paid athletes, according to a survey from ESPN The Magazine and SportingIntelligence, with boxer Floyd Mayweather and Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers claiming the other spots at the top of the annual list. With Wayne Rooney slotting in at 15th, four soccer players claim spots in the survey’s top 25, a ranking dominated by Major League Baseball and National Football League players.

Two Formula One drivers (Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton) and boxer Wladimir Klitschko join Mayweather ($73.5 million), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant ($30.5 million), and the four soccer stars among the highest earners from football and baseball. Led by Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Zach Grienke ($28 million per year), nine Major League Baseball players make the list, while the $40 million Aaron Rodgers made in 2013 leads the NFL’s eight representatives in the magazine’s ranking.

According to the survey:

“Average Annual Pay” is calculated from base player salaries from current or most recently completed seasons from each sport. All totals exclude endorsements, performance bonuses, appearance fees and any other source of extra compensation.

There are a few caveats for those looking to draw too many conclusions from the list. For NFL players, the huge signing bonuses teams use to deal with the salary cap can skew an individual number. Aaron Rodgers’ actual annual salary is $22 million, but a $35 million signing bonus elevates his 2013 salary. In basketball, Kobe Bryant’s longevity and salaries under previous collective bargaining agreements mean he’s the only player that can break this list. Earnings for boxers only include base prize money and none of the earnings from pay-per-view sales, while the various tax considerations help obscure what soccer players make. In a sport where salary information is already difficult to verify, some players’ salaries (Ibrahimovic) is after tax; others’ are not.

Still, the task of collecting this information is a monumental one – an effort that stretched across 14 different professional leagues. The full results can be seen here and here, with soccer’s contributions to the product listed below:

HIGHEST PAID, ANNUAL SALARY
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid – $50.2 million
3. Lionel Messi, Barcelona – $50.1 million
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain – $35 million
15. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United – $26 million

HIGHEST PAYROLL, AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY (TOTAL ANNUAL SALARY)
1. Manchester City, England – $8,109,912 ($202,747,812)
4. Real Madrid, Spain – $7,586,438 ($189,660,944)
5. Barcelona, Spain – $7,446,562 ($193,610,600)
7. Bayern Munich, Germany – $6,689,311 ($173,922,091)
8. Manchester United, England – $6,566,775 ($164,169,367)
10. Chelsea, England – $6,053,686 ($151,342,140)
11. Arsenal, England – $5,928,172 ($148,204,312)
18. Juventus, Italy – $5,336,821 ($149,431,100)
20. Liverpool, England – $5,171,351 ($129,283,779)
25. Roma, Italy – $4,937,720 ($123,443,000)

 

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