Forbes: Top Soccer Earners

To compile our list of the world’s highest-earnings soccer players, we looked through team and commercial sponsor filings and spoke with talent agencies and soccer experts in the U.S. and Europe. All earnings are in U.S. dollars for salaries, incentives and sponsorship income earned in the 2009 calendar year, with euro and pound conversions at exchange rates as of June 30, 2009.

Here’s the top ten highest earners in soccer:

No. 1: David Beckham
Earnings: $40 million / 29 million euros / 24 million pounds
Age: 35
Country: U.K.
Club: AC Milan; Los Angeles Galaxy
Major Sponsors: Adidas, Giorgio Armani, Motorola, Coty, Cabo Sao Roque Resort, Go3, Sharpie
Beckham’s playing future is uncertain, but his sponsorship potential continues. He was recently transformed into a Terminator-like character to promote the Motorola Aura, a $2,000 luxury smartphone. Additionally, after losing top billing with Giorgio Armani, he decided to launch his own underwear line.

No. 2: Cristiano Ronaldo
Earnings: $30 million / 22 million euros / 18 million pounds
Age: 25
Country: Portugal
Club: Real Madrid CF
Major Sponsors: Nike, Giorgio Armani, Coca-Cola, Castrol, EA Sports, Banco Espirito Santo
Ronaldo is becoming Beckham’s heir apparent both on and off the pitch. Having followed his footsteps first at Manchester United and then on to Real Madrid, he is now trying on Beck’s advertising pants, so to speak. Ronaldo recently signed on to become the new underwear and jeans model for Giorgio Armani. His handlers report turning down 90% of Ronaldo’s endorsement offers.

No. 3: Ricardo Kaka
Earnings: $25 million / 18 million euros / 15 million pounds
Age: 28
Country: Brazil
Club: Real Madrid CF
Major Sponsors: Adidas, Giorgio Armani, Bravia, Guarana
The wholesome Brazillian joined Ronaldo at Real Madrid in the second highest transfer fee on record (Real shelled out $91 million to acquire his rights from AC Milan.) While he has been suffering from a leg injury and missed some playing time, he’s expected to be a key factor in Brazil’s bid to win the World Cup.

No. 4: Ronaldinho
Earnings: $25 million / 18 million euros / 15 million pounds
Age: 30
Country: Brazil
Club: AC Milan
Major Sponsors: Nike, Nutrilite, Konica, Pepsi
The aging Brazillian star, voted player of the decade by World Soccer magazine, was rumored to be moving to the English Premier League after it leaked AC Milan was going to offer him a contract extension with a pay cut. A more sure sign of whether the sun has set on his career is if he is included on his national team for the World Cup.

No. 5: Thierry Henry
Earnings: $24 million / 18 million euros / 14 million pounds
Age: 32
Country: France
Club: FC Barcelona
Major Sponsors: Reebok, Gillette, Pepsi
Henry has been rumored for years to be on the verge of moving to the New York Red Bull of MLS. In reaction to a controversy following the France-Ireland 2010 World Cup qualifier in which Henry admitted to using his hands to assist in France’s winning goal to knock Ireland out of Cup consideration, Gillette faced a boycott but subsequently released a statement backing Henry.

No. 6: Lionel Messi
Earnings: $20 million / 15 million euros / 12 million pounds
Age: 22
Country: Argentina
Club: FC Barcelona
Major Sponsors: Adidas, Pepsi, Konami
Messi swept the awards for the 2008-’09 season, winning FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and UEFA Champions League Player of the Year among others. His scoring prowess this season–42 goals in 50 games–has both La Liga and national teams fearing him and puts him in contention to repeat a sweep of awards this year. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers counts himself a fan–he has an autographed picture of Leo in his locker.

No. 7: Frank Lampard
Earnings: $17 million / 13 million euros / 10 million pounds
Age: 31
Country: U.K.
Club: Chelsea FC
Major Sponsors: Adidas, Orange, Gatorade, EA Sports
Chelsea fans have said "As Lamps goes, so goes Chelsea." He is one of the top scorers this season at Chelsea with 17 goals in 32 games–which includes a four-goal game against Aston Vila–and the Premier League’s highest ever goal-scoring midfielder with 124 goals.

No. 8: John Terry
Earnings: $16 million / 12 million euros / 10 million pounds
Age: 29
Country: U.K.
Club: Chelsea FC
Major Sponsors: Umbro, Samsung, Konami, Nationwide
After an embarrassing e-mail sent by one of the firms handling Terry’s publicity touting him as ideal candidate for commercial endorsements ahead of this year’s World Cup, word broke that Terry cheated on his wife with the girlfriend of a friend and ex-teammate. Equally embarrassing to the man voted Dad of the Year–he tried to sue a British rag to keep the story of his infidelity out of the press but had a judge rule against him, saying he was not about protecting sponsorships. He was subsequently stripped of his captaincy of the England national squad.

No. 9: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Earnings: $16 million / 12 million euros / 10 million pounds
Age: 28
Country: Sweden
Club: FC Barcelona
Major Sponsor: Nike
The Swedish striker commanded the third-highest transfer fee when Barcelona paid $94 million to Inter Milan in July 2009, signing Ibrahimovic to a five-year contract.

No. 10: Steven Gerrard
Earnings: $15 million / 11 million euros / 9 million pounds
Age: 29
Country: U.K.
Club: Liverpool FC
Major Sponsors: Adidas, Persil, Lucozade, Pringles
Last summer the one-club man signed a new contract with the Reds that runs through 2013. But Jose Mourinho, coach of Italian club Inter Milan, who once courted Gerrard while he was at Chelsea, has stated Gerrard is his No. 1 acquisition target this summer.

See the full list with pictures at