Footballers are some of the highest-paid athletes in the world and we’ve made up a starting XI of the players on the biggest wages.
It’s no surprise that Europe’s top five leagues dominate the list, especially with players from PSG and Barcelona.
We’ve been through the wages table from around the world on FBref and put together this XI, with the top earners for every position, arranged in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
GK: David de Gea
De Gea is the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world as he narrowly edges out the likes of Manuel Neuer and Jan Oblak with his weekly wage of £375,000 per week.
The Spanish goalkeeper has been at Old Trafford for 12 seasons now and although his form these days can be a bit patchy, he is still one of the first names on the team sheet.
He has proved his worth this year under Erik ten Hag, winning the Premier League’s Golden Glove for the most clean sheets. But that incredibly lucrative contract is about to come to an end, and while he’s expected to sign a new deal and remain at Old Trafford, De Gea is expected to take a significant wage cut – he’s unlikely to remain the world’s best-paid goalkeeper next term.
RB: Reece James
James has had a rapid rise through the Chelsea academy and is now considered as one of the best full-backs in the world. His weekly earnings of £250,000 certainly reflect his highly regarded status in the game.
The Chelsea full-back has been unfortunate with injuries this season but has since recovered and will be absolutely integral under Mauricio Pochettino as the Blues look to bounce back from their dismal 2022-23 campaign.
CB: Sergio Ramos
After an injury-hit first year in Paris, Ramos found his feet at PSG and was been at the heart of their defence this season alongside Marquinhos last term.
Ramos, who is on a reported weekly wage of £463,000, was the highest-paid defender in the world in 2022-23. His former Spanish teammate Gerard Pique previously held this record prior to his retirement last year.
However, he’s played his last game for PSG and he’ll be leaving the club when his contract expires this summer. Ramos has been strongly rumoured to follow his old Real Madrid team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to Saudi Arabia, where you’ll imagine he’ll earn a pretty penny.
CB: David Alaba
Real Madrid struck one of the bargains of the century when they picked up Alaba on a free transfer from Bayern Munich. They rewarded him with a reported weekly wage of £382,000 which makes him the highest-paid defender in La Liga.
The 30-year-old had a memorable debut campaign with Madrid as they won La Liga, the Supercopa de Espana and the Champions League during the 2021-22 season. Year two wasn’t quite so successful, but Alaba did lift more silverware and completed the set with the Copa del Rey and Club World Cup.
LB: Jordi Alba
Barcelona have quite the reputation these days for handing out huge contracts and Alba was still one of their highest earners on a reported weekly wage of £353,000.
In a bid to ease Barcelona’s financial problems in 2021, Alba was one of their players to agree to a wage cut. Some reports suggested that Alba reduced his wages by as much as 25% and he also deferred another part of his salary.
But the Catalan club will have the veteran full-back’s wages off their books next season. He’s just waved goodbye after 11 glittering years of service – and he won’t be the only saving they make going forward…
CDM: Sergio Busquets
The era-defining midfield maestro has left Barcelona after becoming one of the most successful players in the club’s history.
Busquets was earning an estimated £628,000 weekly wage at Barcelona. His former Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta isn’t too far away from matching his salary as he earns close to £500,000 per week with Vissel Kobe.
CDM: Frenkie de Jong
Not only is De Jong the highest-paid player at Barcelona, but he is also the highest-paid player in La Liga if his reported weekly wage of £637,000 is correct. No wonder he ended up staying put last summer.
The Dutch midfielder continues to be linked with a move away from Camp Nou as Manchester United remains interested in his services.
RM: Kylian Mbappe
There’s a strong case to be made that Mbappe is the best player in the world right now and his mouth-watering wage packet certainly reflects that. The PSG star is earning a reported weekly wage of £1,222,000 which is more than any of his fellow teammates.
Mbappe finished the calendar year of 2022 with 56 goals in 56 games which made him the outright top scorer of the year, fending off the likes of Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.
CAM: Lionel Messi
A return to Barcelona and a bumper payday move to Saudi Arabia have also been mooted as potential options for Messi, who is another of European football’s top earners to be leaving for pastures new this summer.
Following his World Cup triumph with Argentina, Messi is the current favourite for the next Ballon d’Or, which would be the eighth of his career. Even at 35 years of age he can do things that other players can only dream of.
It’s only fitting that Neymar also makes it into the team alongside his fellow PSG co-stars. The Brazilian playmaker was outstanding in the first half of the 2022-23 campaign but he suffered a season-ending injury in February.
The 30-year-old is earning a reported weekly wage of £957,000, which is slightly less than Mbappe and Messi.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s deal with Al-Nassr has seen him become the outright highest-paid player in world football once again. The 38-year-old has been handed some huge contracts over the years, but this is bound to be his biggest yet.
His new deal is said to be worth £173million per year, including image and commercial deals. That means that Ronaldo will be earning a whopping £3,327,000 per week, which is almost three times as much as Mbappe, who is the second-highest earner in the world.