Rich list

Virat Kohli’s salary is nowhere close to that of the highest-paid athletes in the world

It pays to be the best athlete in your sport.

In a succession of announcements, Lionel Messi, Stephen Curry and James Harden landed some of the biggest pay-days in sporting history.

Digging through Forbes’s Highest Paid Athletes list shows us what kind of money professional athletes get paid annually and the financial disparity of being a sportswoman.

The chart below shows athletes in order of salary. Team sports like football, baseball, basketball and American football dominate when it comes to monthly pay checks. Of the 100 sportspeople on the list, 69 came from either the United States’ Major League Baseball, National Football League or the National Basketball Association league.

This is particularly amazing because other than MLB, all other leagues have salary caps. It takes a significant amount of financial juggling by sporting organisations to accommodate such large pay packages.

Team sports are the highest paying (Anand Katakam)
Team sports are the highest paying (Anand Katakam)

Cristiano Ronaldo, who topped the list earlier this year, is likely to be toppled by Lionel Messi, who signed a $340 million four-year contract with Barcelona last week.

The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry stands to make over $200 million over the next five years – a number that was eclipsed by James Harden’s contract worth $228 million over the same period, making it the highest paying contract in NBA history.

Individual sports like golf and tennis are not as lucrative in terms of prize money or salary, but athletes such as Roger Federer are rewarded with huge endorsement deals from brands like Rolex, Nike and Credit Suisse, taking his earnings close to the top.

Most athletes solely rely on sponsors. Tiger Woods made only around $100,000 last year in prize money, but he made a mammoth $37 million in endorsements.

One jarring statistic on the list is that Serena Williams is the only woman to break into the top 100. She made over two-thirds of her earnings in endorsements, and her prize money last year was $8 million, making her the third-highest earner in the sport regardless of gender.

However, when it comes to endorsements, she makes substantially less than her male counterparts on the list. Raphael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Federer and Japan’s Kei Nishikori have significantly higher endorsement deals.

Virat Kohli ekes in as the lone cricketer and Indian with financial clout. He makes around $3 million in salaried income, beating Usain Bolt and Woods. However, the bulk of their earnings come from endorsements.

Take a closer look at the data for yourself.

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