No athlete makes it to the pros without passion and drive. The world’s top athletes undoubtedly possess both to guide their efforts, but the money certainly helps as well. Across the sporting world, a handful of stars make numbers equivalent to the GDP of small nations. The year 2018 was as lucrative as ever for the biggest names in sports. These were the top five highest paid athletes of 2018.
2018 earnings: $90 million
Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is one of the highest-paid athletes in the sport and athletics as a whole. In 2018, he netted a total of $90 million. Financially, 2018 was a fantastic year for Neymar, but his social media life was less than charmed. Throughout the World Cup hosted in Russia, Neymar spent a sum total of 14 minutes howling on the field in agony. The theatrics in his attempts to be awarded fouls didn’t land Brazil the cup, but it did capture the attention of fans, who quickly took to the internet to mock his performance with the #neymarchallenge. Videos spread across the internet of people falling to the ground in pain from the slightest touch.
4. Conor McGregor
2018 earnings: $99 million
Former lightweight Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion, the “notorious” Connor McGregor is one of the sport’s highest paid and most-talked-about fighters. McGregor reined in $99 million for the year 2018, but it was a rough one for the UFC star. McGregor lost his lightweight title to Khabib Nurmagomedov in light of his absence from the sport by choice of Dana White. Shortly after Nurmagomedov’s victory, McGregor and his entourage went on a rampage in the streets of New York, attacking a bus housing Nurmagomedov among other fighters. He was initially charged with several felonies but entered a plea deal that saved him from jail time and preserved his right to travel. Later in the year, McGregor fought Nurmagomedov and lost.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
2018 earnings: $108 million
Famed soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is another one of the sport’s most expensive athletes. In 2018, Ronaldo brought in a total of $108 million. However, 2018 was also a tumultuous year for the sports star’s legal troubles. In June of 2018, Ronaldo was given a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 18.8 million euros for tax evasion. Although the jail sentence was allowed to be served under probation, another longstanding charge came back to haunt him as a lawsuit for a 2005 rape charge brought against him. He is currently scheduled for trial in federal court.
2. Lionel Messi
2018 earnings: $111 million
Lionel Messi of Argentina is the highest-paid soccer player in the world and second-highest paid athlete of all sports. By many accounts, he is the greatest soccer player in the world, and his paycheck reflects it. The athlete brought in $111 million in 2018. Messi’s team lost to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup, but, on the bright side, he managed to stay out of controversy and legal troubles.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
2018 earnings: $285 million
Undefeated welterweight boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is credited as the best defensive boxer of all time and greatest ever in his weight range. His prowess in the ring is mirrored in his finances as he is also the highest-paid athlete bringing in numbers that dwarf even musicians and movie stars. Thus his reputation is two-fold as a prize-fighter and millionaire. In 2018, Mayweather earned $285 million. He also settled for $750,000 with the SEC over a failure to disclose payments accepted from issuers of cryptocurrency firm Centra Tech Inc.