New York: India cricket captain Virat Kohli is among the world’s highest-paid athletes, according to a Forbes’ compilation topped by American boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. Kohli, the only sportsperson from India to be featured in the list, is ranked 83rd with earnings of USD 24 million. Surprisingly, the ‘World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2018’ compilation is an all-male affair with no women being featured in the list.
Kohli, 29, is not just cricket-crazy India’s biggest name but is also one of the most popular athletes in the world, “boasting more Twitter followers (25 million-plus) than all but three active sports stars”, Forbes said. The ‘World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2018’ list is topped by 41-year-old Mayweather, with USD 285 million earnings.
This year the Indian national cricket board ‘The Board of Control for Cricket in India’ named Kohli as one of just five players to receive the newly-created A+ contracts, which guarantee an annual retainer of more than USD 1 million, it said. “Yet like the Indian cricket mega-stars who have come before him, Kohli’s big payday comes off the pitch” where he’s partnered with top brands such as Puma, Pepsi, Audi and Oakley, Forbes said.
There are no women on the list. Forbes said tennis’ female sportspersons Li Na, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams were list regulars but Li retired in 2014 and Sharapova is still dealing with the aftermath of a 15-month suspension for using a banned substance.
Williams was the only woman to feature in the top 100 last year, but her prize money dropped from USD 8 million to USD 62,000 this year after she gave birth to her daughter, Alexis, in September. This year 40 NBA players made the cut in Forbes’ annual look at the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes, breaking the record of 32 set last year by hoopsters.
Mayweather heads the world’s highest-paid athletes for the fourth time in seven years, thanks to a USD 275 million payday for his August boxing match against UFC star Conor McGregor. NBA’s top earner LeBron James banked USD 85.5 million, including endorsements, over the last 12 months to rank sixth among the highest-paid athletes. Argentine professional footballer Lionel Messi is ranked second in the list, followed by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi’s annual salary and bonus exceeded USD 80 million, making him the highest-paid player on the pitch this year. He ranks second overall with USD 111 million, including USD 27 million through endorsement deals with Adidas, Gatorade, Pepsi and Huawei. Ronaldo’s USD 108 million haul over the past 12 months trails only Mayweather and Messi.
Brazilian soccer player Neymar is the third soccer star in the top five. He jumps 13 spots to fifth with an income of USD 90 million, including USD 19 million from endorsement partners. Others on the list are American basketball player LeBron James (6), Tennis star Roger Federer (7), golfer Tiger Woods (16), tennis player Rafael Nadal (20) and golfer Rory McIlroy (26).
Forbes said it was harder than ever to qualify for the 100 highest-paid athletes, with the cutoff up USD 1.5 million to USD 22.9 million. The top 100 earned USD 3.8 billion, a 23 per cent jump over last year. Salaries and prize money are up significantly, but endorsement earnings fell for the second straight year to USD 877 million as companies watch their sports marketing budgets.
The top 100 has an international flavour with athletes from 22 countries, but Americans dominate the action with 66 making the cut thanks to sky-high salaries in baseball, basketball and football. Those three sports had a combined 72 entries, Forbes added.