Federer tops list of world’s highest-paid athletes

NEW YORK (AFP) – Roger Federer (pic below) topped the 2020 Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes announced on Friday, leading the lineup for the first time with pre-tax earnings of USD106.3 million.

The Swiss tennis legend, a men’s record 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, becomes the first player from his sport atop the annual list since its 1990 debut, rising from fifth in 2019.

Federer’s haul over the past 12 months included USD100 million from appearances fees and endorsement deals plus USD6.3 million in prize money. His previous best showing was second in 2013.

“His brand is pristine, which is why those that can afford to align with him clamour to do so,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told the magazine.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that shut down sports worldwide caused the first decline since 2016 in the total income of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, a nine per cent dip from last year to USD3.6 billion. Another plunge is expected next year from the shutdown.

Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list at USD105 million, USD60 million in salary and USD45 million from endorsements, with Argentine football hero Lionel Messi third on USD104 million, USD32 million of that from sponsorship deals.

Messi and Ronaldo, who have traded the top spot three of the past four years, saw their combined incomes dip USD28 million from last year due to salary cuts when European clubs halted play in March.

Brazilian footballer Neymar was fourth overall on USD95.5 million, USD25 million from endorsements, while NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was fifth on USD88.2 million, USD60 million of that from endorsements.

NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was sixth on USD74.4 million with former teammate Kevin Durant next on USD63.9 million.

Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion and a 15-time major winner, was eighth on the list and tops among golfers at USD62.3 million, all but USD2.3 million from sponsor deals.

Woods topped the Forbes list a record 12 times before an infidelity scandal helped end his run.

Two NFL quarterbacks rounded out the top 10 with Kirk Cousins ninth at USD60.5 million and Carson Wentz 10th on USD59.1 million.

The top 100 featured athletes from 21 nations and 10 sports. More NBA players made the list than those from any other sport at 35, but 31 NFL players made the cut, up from 19 from last year, and they pulled down the most money of any league, aided by finishing the season before the deadly virus outbreak.

Major League Baseball (MLB), whose start to the 2020 campaign was postponed by the virus outbreak, put only one player on the list after 15 in 2019. The lone MLB player was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was 57th at USD27.3 million with only USD750,000 from endorsements.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was last among the 100 on USD21.8 million, including USD3 million in endorsements.

Two women, tennis stars Naomi Osaka of Japan and Serena Williams of the United States, made the list, the most females on it since 2016. Osaka ranked 29th overall on USD37.4 million, four spots ahead of Williams with USD36 million.

Federer, who spent a record 310 weeks as world number one, reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals from 2005-2010.

Only Woods has joined Federer in making USD100 million in sponsor deals in a single year.