KEY POINTS

  • Man Utd signed Ronaldo in the 2021 summer window
  • Ronaldo cost Man Utd $17 million upfront
  • His first stint at Man Utd happened between 2003 and 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational return to Manchester United has helped him beat Lionel Messi to become Forbes’ highest-earning soccer player of the year.

Manchester United re-signed Ronaldo this summer on a two-year contract with an option to extend his stay by a year. The Old Trafford side paid around $17 million upfront and $9.3 million in add-ons to Juventus for Ronaldo, whose first stint at Old Trafford took place between 2003 and 2009. 

The 36-year-old forward is set to earn $125 million before taxes during the 2021-22 campaign with $70m of that coming from his salary and bonuses for his return to Old Trafford, according to Forbes

In the list of highest-paid soccer players, Messi stands at second position with an earning of $110 million at his new club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The Argentinean star parted ways with his boyhood club FC Barcelona in the summer of 2021 after spending over two decades in the Spanish city.

Messi’s PSG teammates Neymar and Kylian Mbappe come in the top four footballers in this year’s Forbes list of highest-paid soccer players. 

Neymar earns $95 million, whereas French star Mbappe receives $43 million. 

Ronaldo, who earns nearly $55 million through commercial deals, is one of the highest-paid athletes across the globe when it comes to sponsorship earnings. His personal endorsements and partnerships with brands include Nike, Herbalife, Clear and his ever-expanding CR7-branded portfolio that includes perfume, underwear, eyewear, hotels, gyms and more. 

Only three other active athletes get paid more commercially than the Manchester United star forward -- Roger Federer ($90 million) LeBron James ($65 million) and Tiger Woods ($60 million).

In total, the top 10 highest-paid soccer players are set to collect pre-tax earnings of around $585 million in the ongoing season, up from last year’s total of around $570 million.

Cristiano Ronaldo's third goal in two games for Manchester United came in vain against Swiss champions Young Boys Cristiano Ronaldo's third goal in two games for Manchester United came in vain against Swiss champions Young Boys Photo: AFP / SEBASTIEN BOZON

Ronaldo, who kickstarted his competitive career in 2002, has played a total of 898 matches, across four clubs, scoring 678 goals and 229 assists. Over the years, he has helped his respective teams win several laurels and as an individual player, the Portuguese star has so far bagged four Ballon d'Or awards, one less than his arch-rival Messi.