The Saudi Pro League has an awful lot of money to spend on players.

A summer window in which they spent heavily to recruit some of the globe’s biggest stars has influenced the wealth scale in the sport.

The annual World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players list by Forbes was released on Friday. This year’s table predictably features many of the most popular players in the sport.

However, there is a new player atop the charts thanks to some significant transfer business in the Middle East.

Cristiano Ronaldo is now back on top of the list of highest-paid players. He last topped the earnings list in 2021. The Portuguese superstar was then previously third in the rankings by Forbes last year. However, a move to Saudi Arabia has fueled Ronaldo’s move back up the charts.

Ronaldo, Messi back atop Forbes rankings

According to the American business magazine, Ronaldo currently rakes in $260 million in annual total earnings. This includes receiving a salary from Al Nassr of $200 million, plus additional off-field income. The massive earnings are actually nearly double that of second-placed Lionel Messi.

The Argentine’s move to Major League Soccer helped increase Messi’s annual income as well. While he was also second in last year’s rankings, the superstar grew his earnings by about 12% compared to a year ago. Messi, however, currently makes more money in endorsement deals than with his Inter Miami salary. Nevertheless, Messi becomes the first MLS player to make the list since David Beckham in 2012.

Mbappe dethroned, four Saudi Pro League players make top 10 on the money list

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe was dethroned as the highest-paid soccer player in the world. The Frenchman previously topped the 2022 chart. Along with Ronaldo’s massive increase, Mbappe was also surpassed by former PSG teammate Neymar. The Brazilian star’s increase in earnings was, like Ronaldo, fueled by a move to Saudi Arabia.

Neymar was previously fourth in the Forbes list last year with total earnings reaching $87 million. Nevertheless, the forward now apparently makes $112 million annually thanks to a switch to Al Hilal. The magazine suggests that Neymar currently rakes in about $80 million alone in salary from the Saudi side.

Ronaldo and Neymar are, however, not the only players to ply their trade in the Middle East to make the list. In fact, four total Saudi Pro League players are included in the top 10 financial rankings. Karim Benzema (Al Ittihad) and Sadio Mane (Al Nassr) joined Ronaldo and Messi in the table. Neither of these two players were previously in Forbes’ 2022 list.

The world’s highest-paid soccer players according to Forbes:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo ($260 million)
  2. Lionel Messi ($135 million)
  3. Neymar ($112 million)
  4. Kylian Mbappé ($110 million)
  5. Karim Benzema ($106 million)
  6. Erling Haaland ($58 million)
  7. Mohamed Salah ($53 million)
  8. Sadio Mané ($52 million)
  9. Kevin De Bruyne ($39 million)
  10. Harry Kane ($36 million)

Photo credit: IMAGO / Power Sport Images