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The seven richest sportsmen of all time

Cristiano Ronaldo has joined the club of seven, the elite group of highest paid athletes who have gathered more than $1 billion during their career. On a sporting rich list that renowned American business magazine Forbes regularly publishes, 35-year-old Ronaldo is now among the seven richest sportsmen of all time. He is the youngest person of the group and the first football player ever to reach that milestone.

There are no women in the top ten of the Forbes list but it is the first time since 2016 that two women are included in the 100 highest paid athletes. They are both tennis players with Naomi Osaka ranking 29th in the 100 sports people, while Serena Williams is 33rd. Here are the 7 athletes who have made over $1 billion since the start of their career.


The seven richest sportsmen of all time


7. Ronaldo – Career earnings: $1 billion

According to the new report from Forbes, Ronaldo has accrued a total of $650 million as a footballer in the last 17 years. The rest of his billion dollar fortune was earned via endorsements, his fashion line (CR7), his hotel chain and his own museum which is located in his hometown of Funchal on the island of Madeira.

Forbes estimate that the Portuguese football player and Premier League Golden Boot winner has made $105 million before tax in the last year, taking his total worth past the $1 billion mark. The Juventus star is ranked at number four in the business magazine’s list of the world’s highest-paid celebrities in 2020, behind only media personality Kylie Jenner, hip-hop artist Kanye West and tennis player Roger Federer who, incidentally, does not make this list.


6. Michael Schumacher – Career earnings: $1 billion

Mercedes are currently the dominant force in Formula 1 but during Michael Schumacher’s era, it was Ferrari. The former racing driver became world champion seven times and ended his career having earned half a billion dollars, which he doubled through sponsorship deals and merchandising.

On 29 December 2013, Schumacher sadly sustained a serious head injury whilst skiing with his son. The German was put into a medically induced coma because of the brain trauma that he received and not much is known about his current state, with his family choosing to keep his progress private.


5. Floyd Mayweather – Career earnings: $1.1 billion

Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is a boxer and promoter who is regarded by many as the pound-for-pound greatest fighter ever and he is number 5 in in our list of the richest sportsmen of all time.

Mayweathers’ total career earnings topped 1.1 billion dollars through a series a series of incredibly lucrative bouts against some of the biggest fighters of the past 20 years.

He is the wealthiest boxer in history, comfortably current and former fighters including Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Anthony Joshua. The 43-year old is one of the most lucrative pay-per-view attractions of all time, in any sport. He topped the Forbes and Sports Illustrated lists of the 50 highest paid athletes for four consecutive years between 2012 and 2015 which listing him as the best paid in the world.


4. Jack Nicklaus – Career earnings: $1.15 billion

Jack Nicklaus is one of three golfers on the list, all of whom number among the four biggest earners in sporting history.

The 80-year-old legend won eighteen majors during his playing career over a 24-year period between 1962 and 1986. Oddly enough, Nicklaus did not start making the big money until he took the same route as Arnold Palmer by building a successful company that designs and builds golf courses. Combine that with portrait rights and a hefty pile of merchandising, Jack Nicklaus has earned over one billion dollars.


3. Arnold Palmer – Career earnings: $1.35 billion

Arnold Palmer had a seismic impact on the world of golf. He won 62 PGA Tour events, including four victories at the Masters, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Despite being a hugely successful golfer, Palmer only made a few million of his vast fortune playing golf. Indeed, Palmer earnt most of his money when he entered sports marketing. The selling of golf clubs and the construction of golf courses, especially, was very lucrative for the golfing legend who sadly passed away in 2016.


2. Tiger Woods – Career earnings: $1.65 billion

The most famous golfer in the world may not be at the top of this list in terms of amount but he was the first sportsman to earn more than 1 billion dollars as an active athlete. Tiger Woods is second on our list of the highest paid athletes in the world in part to his lucrative contract with Nike. In August 2016, Woods announced that he would be seeking a new golf equipment partner after the news of Nike’s exit from the equipment industry.


1. Michael Jordan – Career earnings: $1.9 billion

Despite retiring (for the third time) in 2003, Michael Jordan still earns more than most athletes, thanks to Nike’s Jordan range of sportswear. His Michael Jordan brand raises three billion dollars every year, £120 million of which goes to Jordan himself. Add that amount to his career earning and other commercial partnerships and the end result is the richest sportsman of all time.

The now 57-year old basketball legend is planning to use some of his earnings for good causes, as Jordan and Nike have recently pledged to donate $100 million over 10 years to organizations fighting for “racial quality, social justice, and greater access to education”.



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