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Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes 2021

When Forbes released its annual Top 10 list of the highest paid athletes for 2021 it certainly threw up some surprises. It also saw a prediction made jokingly in 2016 coming to fruition. So the team here at thought it would be a great idea to tell you all about it.

Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes 2021

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What is the Forbes Top 10 list?

Forbes is actually a current affairs magazine, but is much better known for the hundreds of different lists it produces every year. This particular list is one of the most eagerly awaited and features the 10 athletes with the greatest annual income accrued over a twelve month period. So this year’s list covers 1 May 2020 to 31 April 2021.

The figures you see include the earnings each sportsman on the list made directly from sporting activities, as well as any income derived from other sources such as business income, sponsorship or product endorsements.

So without further ado, let’s get onto the facts and figures for 2021.

#1 Conor McGregor – $180 million 

Taking the Forbes 2021 list by storm, with a cool $50 million advantage, is MMA fighter Conor McGregor; with a colossal haul of $180 million easily securing him the number one spot. A large chunk of that coming from the sale of his majority share in Irish Whiskey brand ‘Proper No. Twelve’ for a reported $600 million.

Although Conor portrays himself as ‘ordinary’ in public, behind the scenes he is a very sharp businessman, with his Irish fingers in many pies, including playing host to an online UFC gaming tournament, with himself as the star contender naturally.

Many of his newest business ventures are likely funded by the $22 million earned from his only UFC fight in 2020, which he lost incidentally. Of course, it wasn’t quite in the same league as his much-hyped bout with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, which generated the biggest PPV audience ever.

Rumour from the Mayweather camp is that there is a rematch afoot. No doubt Floyd is hoping to recapture his place on the 2022 Forbes list, where he’s been in the top slot himself on no less than five occasions. Here at we know the bookies are already showing interest, so head over and see who’s got the best odds for a rematch!

Well now we know exactly how Conor McGregor made it to the top of the 2021 Forbes list so quickly and unexpectedly, let’s have a look at the other nine rather less-surprising candidates.

#2 Lionel Messi – $130 million 

It’s been a rather dramatic year for the number two slot owner Lionel Messi, which has included messy (pardon the pun) contracts and fake news. Nevertheless he has still managed to clear a colossal $130 million, of which the bulk ($97 million) was achieved through his sporting talents alone, together with some well-received sponsorship deals, edging him just above other soccer-playing rivals.

#3 Cristiano Ronaldo – $120 million 

Ronaldo has been a part of this particular Forbes list for more than 10 years now and at the top of the charts on several occasions. He is a veteran in the earnings department and has easily sustained his high places. He’s enjoyed a great year of football, breaking several world records along the way and earning $70 million in style. Of course, he is very popular with the ladies and boasts over 500 million social media followers, which certainly helps him to enjoy plenty of off-field sponsorship deals. That said, his own business ventures are not exactly low earners either.

#4 Dak Prescott – $107.5 million 

This Dallas Cowboys quarterback superhero hasn’t been slow in coming forward over the last 12 months, netting him a sports income only just shy of $100 million. The $66 million signing bonus that came with Prescott’s four-year Dallas Cowboys contract gave him a massive boost up the list for this year.

#5 LeBron James – $96 million 

Superstar basketball player LeBron James is another stalwart on the list, consistently achieving high placing for more than 12 years. Basketball is clearly not as lucrative as football. Meaning that two-thirds ($65 million) of LeBron’s earnings were attributable to his new-found acting career, plus his lucrative sponsorship deal with the Pepsi brand, which has kept his income topped up nicely.

#6 Neymar – $95 million 

Our third soccer hero, Neymar, netted a cool $76 million using his soccer skills alone, with the remainder funded by endorsements from sports brand Puma. Neymar enjoys a massive social media following, which puts him in the perfect position to punt the Puma brand to his 282 million fans.

#7 Roger Federer – $90 million 

Despite actually making a sporting LOSS of $0.3 million over the period when Forbes were collecting their data, Federer still managed to achieve sufficient off-court income to keep his place in the top 10 (albeit a tad lower down the list than the places he’s enjoyed for the last few years). However, with sponsors like Credit Suisse and Rolex under his belt, that really comes as no surprise.

#8 Lewis Hamilton – $82 million 

It was a difficult 2020 for Lewis Hamilton and the F1 scene in general. However, that didn’t slow down his income too much. Winning a stunning 11 races in the 2020 F1 series netted him huge bonuses, which boosted his on-track earnings to $70 million, with multiple endorsements making up the balance.

#9 Tom Brady – $76 million 

Considering that the average age of a US football player is 26 years, then you might be forgiven for thinking that, at 43 years of age, Brady is coasting along on his off-field earnings. But in fact he’s playing out of his skin and his football earnings of $45 million were well in excess of anything earned off-field. He’s quite the entrepreneur on the side though and owns an eclectic mix of businesses.

#10 Kevin Durant – $75 million 

Injury-plagued US basketball player Kevin Durant made more cash ($44 million) off-court than on-court last year, thanks largely to his alternative skill sets and some astute long-term investments coming to fruition. His off-court activities have included producing an Oscar-winning short film and launching his own media company. However, it was the profit made from selling his Uber shares that squeezed him into the tail-end place.

A few final words of wisdom

There is no denying that this year’s Forbes Top 10 Richest Athletes list has been affected by the sporting disaster that epitomises 2020. That said, there are several names on the list that have held steady somewhere in the top ten for a decade or more, of course not forgetting the number one surprise package for this year.

Who knows what the remainder of 2021 will bring for the world of sports, with tentative un-lockdown steps being taken by several major sporting nations. Fancy a punt on that? Then get over to and let’s see what the odds are for a return to normality sometime soon.

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