Ronaldo is football's first billion-dollar player

Ronaldo is expected to reach US$765 million in his playing career salary when his current contract ends in June 2022.
Ronaldo is expected to reach US$765 million in his playing career salary when his current contract ends in June 2022.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • After making US$105 million (S$147 million) over the past year, Cristiano Ronaldo is now football's first billion-dollar man.

The Portuguese broke yet another record when he totalled more than US$1 billion in earnings over the course of his 18-year playing career, reported Forbes magazine.

Of that amount, US$650 million were made through football and the rest were from all his endorsement deals off the pitch.

The Juventus forward is also expected to reach US$765 million in his playing career salary when his current contract ends in June 2022.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time, in the world's most popular sport, in an era when football has never been so rich," said Sporting Intelligence's Nick Harris, whose Global Sports Salaries Survey ranks teams worldwide based on total salary expense.

"He's box office."

Ronaldo, 35, is also only the third athlete to break the billion-dollar mark while still active, joining 15-time golf Major champion Tiger Woods and champion boxer Floyd Mayweather on that list.

Woods, 44, achieved that feat in 2009 alongside a long-term endorsement deal with Nike, while Mayweather, 43, did it in 2017 with most of his income coming from a cut of pay-per-view revenue for his boxing matches.

According to Forbes, Ronaldo earned a pre-tax total of US$105 million over the last 12 months and is the second-highest-paid athlete this year, behind only tennis great Roger Federer (US$106 million).

Ronaldo is also the most followed athlete on social media with 222 million Instagram followers. He is the third athlete to sign a lifetime deal with Nike, joining basketball stars Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi - Ronaldo's long-time rival - started playing at the senior level in 2005, three years after Ronaldo, and is poised to also surpass the US$1 billion mark in total earnings as soon as next year.

The Argentinian, who turns 33 on June 24, has amassed US$605 million in salary throughout his playing career, not inclusive of endorsements, and had earned US$104 million over the past year.

Ronaldo's record is a new high for team sport, considering that few team athletes besides Messi have come near those figures.

The closest was former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. He retired in 2016 after 22 years in Major League Baseball having earned US$480 million in salary and around US$35 million in endorsements, noted a Fox Business article published in January.

Retired English footballer David Beckham made only half of Ronaldo's earnings, ending his 21-year career with a total income of US$500 million, half of which came from endorsements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 07, 2020, with the headline 'Ronaldo is football's first billion-dollar player'. Print Edition | Subscribe