The Juventus and Portugal footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, has now beaten his arch-rival, Lionel Messi, in becoming the first billionaire footballer in the world.
According to Forbes, the 35-year-old striker earned a whopping USD 105 million before taxes and fees in the past one year to be crowned the sport’s first billion-dollar man.
“Ronaldo, the first to do it in a team sport, has made $650 million (Sh69 billion) during his 17 years on the pitch, and is expected to reach $765 million (Sh81 billion) in career salary after his current Juve contract ends in June 2022. Messi, who began playing at the senior level three years after Ronaldo, has earned a total of $605 million (Sh64 billion) in salary since 2005.
“The only team athlete to even come within striking distance of those figures was former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who retired in 2016 after 22 years in MLB having earned $450 million (Sh48 billion) in salary.
“Not even soccer legend David Beckham came close, ending his career with total earnings of $500 million (Sh53 billion), half of which came from off-pitch endorsements,” says Forbes.
Ronaldo and Messi’s head-to-heads heated up in 2009 in Spain’s La Liga, where Ronaldo played for Real Madrid and Messi for Barcelona. Their faceoffs on the pitch ignited a nine-year battle for bragging rights as the best—and top-paid—in the sport, a highly personal tit-for-tat that had them re-negotiating contracts in lockstep and monopolizing the game’s highlight reel.
The former Manchester United winger is only the third athlete to hit the mark as an active player while following Tiger Woods, who did it in 2009 on the back of his long term endorsement deal with Nike, and Floyd Mayweather in 2017, who’s made most of his income from a cut of pay-per-view sales for his boxing matches.