International football, more commonly known to the world as soccer, has a number of wealthy professional stars. Lionel Messi’s journey has been a (wait for it) messy one, which can be taken as a truism or a tongue-in-cheek reflection. In either event, he has accumulated a net worth in upwards of $400 million as a result of being one of the world’s best soccer players.
One of the more difficult parts of Messi’s life is that he was diagnosed as having a growth hormone deficiency at a very early age. Interestingly, what saved him was his athletic abilities. How are the two connected? Soccer team FC Barcelona took notice of the youngster’s natural gifts and signed him to a contract when he was only 13 years old. Take that American football! Part of the contract would include FC Barcelona paying for Messi’s necessary growth hormone treatments.
These childhood events led him to be the highest paid soccer player in the world, even higher than the much heralded Ronaldo. Forbes ranked him the second highest paid athlete this year.
Currently, Messi is under contract with FC Barcelona through the 2021 season. That contract pays him at least $33.6 million a year, so the math says that he will earn at least another $100 million if he decides to end his career when his current contract expires.
Barcelona and Messi have entangled interests, as his negotiation and renegotiation with Barcelona resulted in a clause that would net him about $175 million should another team buy out his contract. That buyout clause would increase with the new 2016 contract to the hefty sum of almost $290 million.
If his rocket-high salary isn’t enough to launch Messi’s way to the $00 million net worth, his endorsement deals are something to behold. What needs to be kept in mind here is that Messi’s appeal is international as soccer is the world’s most popular and played sport. While American sports figures start with a base of about 340 million people, Messi’s starts with the lion’s share of the world’s 7 billion people. Forbes magazine stated that he makes more from endorsements than his soccer salary, a comparison that makes perfect sense.
Among his biggest endorsement deals are one with Gatorade, and another with Adidas. Of the two, Adidas is clearly the winner in dollars earned as he not only endorses shoes and apparel, but soccer cleats as well. This may be the equivalent of an American football player making sums of money from their various cleats that are changed based on field conditions. His suspected annual earnings from Adidas is $12 million, though no one really knows for sure. What is known is that he has a lifetime deal with the company.
For those who are geographically challenged, Messi lives in Barcelona, Spain, where he lives in the expected Spanish mansion. It is said he is treated like royalty in his hometown, and the mansion in just one extension of that persona. The fact that his endorsement presence is international, he has deals with some of the world’s top international companies: Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, sunglasses company Hawkers, Pepsi, and Chinese dairy firm Mengniu Group.
But Messi also recognizes the financial potential of social media, where he has 88 million Facebook followers and 93 million Instagram followers. Just from Adidas alone his presence is said to have generated more than $50 million for the company. It’s safe to say Messi got his share of that rather sizable pie.
However, what is true in America is also true in many other capitalist countries: beware the tax man. Messi and his father were charged and convicted for tax fraud only a couple of years ago, which actually resulted in the two being sentenced to prison time. Lionel was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was ordered to pay 2 million Euros in fines on top of that. By 2017 the prison sentences were exchanged for additional fines, with Lionel paying about $300,000 to avoid suspending his soccer career.
It’s hard to say that Messi lives an extravagant lifestyle given that he is married and has three children to go along with his soccer career. But thus far the history seems to indicate that his affluence has sometimes been mixed with carelessness regarding the tax laws of Spain. He tends to be somewhat philanthropic, giving money to foundations to help the poor as well as designing a theme park in China that is intended to promote soccer through technology by allowing people of all ages to play alongside him using virtual reality.
If you’re thinking Messi is somewhat confused about his amassed good fortune, you are not alone. Trying to avoid the taxman is fraught with perils, and between his total net worth and his international popularity there is no reason to do so. It’s hard to criticize a man who has a virtually guaranteed bankroll of $100 million over the next few years, but for the record he has already dodged jail time due to tax fraud. Adidas has not seemed to take notice.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker