Every year, a list of the highest-paid athletes worldwide is released, and every year we get to bask in the star power that is the nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi. This year, we have Forbes to thank for our list, and while Rossi’s ranking is down in 20th position (he’s usually a Top 10 sort of guy), the value amount has remained steady…which is really saying something considering the slogging the motorcycle industry has taken the past few years.

Coming down to an almost 50/50 split between raw salary and endorsements, Rossi is estimated to make a tidy $30 million per year, tying him for the 20th spot with Formula 1’s Michael Schumacher. The only MotoGP star to top the Top 100 on Forbes’ list, it just goes to show that MotoGP salaries and endorsement contracts aren’t always about results. The Top 20, and other notable entries from the Forbes’ research are listed after the jump.

#1 Floyd Mayweather -Total earnings: $85 million – Salary/winnings: $85 million – Endorsements: $0

#2 Manny Pacquiao: $62 million – Salary/winnings: $56 million – Endorsements: $6 million

#3 Tiger Woods: $59.4 million – Salary/winnings: $4.4 million – Endorsements: $55 million

#4 LeBron James: $53 million – Salary/winnings: $13 million – Endorsements: $40 million

#5 Roger Federer: $52.7 million – Salary/winnings: $7.7 million – Endorsements: $45 million

#6 Kobe Bryant: $52.3 million – Salary/winnings: $20.3 million – Endorsements: $32 million

#7 Phil Mickelson: $47.8 million – Salary/winnings: $4.8 million – Endorsements: $43 million

#8 David Beckham: $46 million – Salary/winnings: $9 million – Endorsements: $37 million

#9 Cristiano Ronaldo: $42.5 million – Salary/winnings: $20.5 million – Endorsements: $22 million

#10 Peyton Manning: $42.4 million – Salary/winnings: $32.4 million – Endorsements: $10 million

#11 Lionel Messi: $39 million – Salary/winnings: $20 million – Endorsements: $19 million

#12 Haloti Ngata: $37.3 million – Salary/winnings: $37.1 million – Endorsements: $200,000

#13 Larry Fitzgerald: $36.8 million – Salary/winnings: $35.3 million – Endorsements: $1.5 million

#14 Ndamukong Suh: $36 million – Salary/winnings: $35.5 million – Endorsements: $500,000

#15 Charles Johnson: $34.4 million – Salary/winnings: $34.3 million – Endorsements: $100,000

#16 Rafael Nadal: $33.2 million – Salary/winnings: $8.2 million – Endorsements: $25 million

#16 Mario Williams: $33.2 million – Salary/winnings: $32.9 million – Endorsements: $250,000

#18 Alex Rodriguez: $33 million – Salary/winnings: $31 million – Endorsements: $2 million

#19 Fernando Alonso: $32 million – Salary/winnings: $29 million – Endorsements: $3 million

#20 Valentino Rossi: $30 million – Salary/winnings: $17 million – Endorsements: $13 million

#20 Michael Schumacher: $30 million – Salary/winnings: $20 million – Endorsements: $10 million

—————————————————————– Other Notable Athletes —————————————————————–

#23 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: $28.2 million – Salary/winnings: $13.2 million – Endorsements: $15 million

#24 Lewis Hamilton: $28 million – Salary/winnings: $25 million – Endorsements: $3 million

#42 Jeff Gordon: $23.6 million – Salary/winnings: $13.6 million – Endorsements: $10 million

#50 Michael Vick: $22 million – Salary/winnings: $20 million – Endorsements: $2 million

#63 Usain Bolt: $20.3 million – Salary/winnings: $300,000 – Endorsements: $20 million

#76 Barry Zito: $18.9 million – Salary/winnings: $18.8 million – Endorsements: $150,000

Source: Forbes; Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Westward

    “The only MotoGP star to top the Top 100 on Forbes’ list, it just goes to show that MotoGP salaries and endorsement contracts aren’t always about results.” — JB

    His position on the list is based on past achievement, normally, Rossi would have been in the top 10 if he were making the amount he was just a couple of years ago. ($40-45 million)

    Maybe it shows that Fiat, Fastweb, Packard Bell, and Petronas meant more in sponsorship than Marlboro, Tim, Diesel. and Enel…

    What I do find interesting, is that F1 salaries are nearly twice that of Rossi’s. I will bet that Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati Motorcycles sells more than Renault, Lotus, and McLaren does cars…

  • Gutterslob

    If the world were mine, the top10 would be populated by a combination of TT winners and wingsuit basejumpers. Risk = reward!!

  • Rossi makes alot of $$ but he’s also incredibly popular in the motorcycle community… Helps to have nine world titles in GP racing too….

  • Smiler

    It is entirely about results. Which is what people forget when they start concluding that Stoner, for example is better than Rossi for example. is that, like him or not
    Rossi has 9 premium class championship titles. In 125, 250 and 500, took 2 years to win the titles with 3 different manufacturers (Aprilia, Honda, Yamahaha) and now Ducati in three classes (125, 250 MotoGP) with 5 different engine configurations (125, 250, 500, 990, 800).
    Added to that he is not a robot (Federer, Nadal, Woods, Stoner, Schumaker), has charisma and is able to play the media to create interest and support the industry he is a part of.
    Unfortunately risk though does not always equal reward. Otherwise as the other contributor said TT and road racers, freedivers and base jumpers would top the list.

  • he’s rich çause the freakin crazy fans, who still fighting for Rossi even in the motorcycle forums. Buy his 46 shirts, leathers, gloves, panties, his sweat, saliva, blood etc.

  • Frenchie

    “I will bet that Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati Motorcycles sells more than Renault, Lotus, and McLaren does cars…”

    Just because there are no Renault available in your country does not mean they’re luxury cars lol.

    I won’t disagree about Lotus and McLaren but Renault is a very different case, they sell about 2,5 million cars annually, not that much compared to Honda and Yam but definitely out of reach for Ducati.

  • joe

    David Beckham is proof its not all about results, and Micheal Vick being there is a sad commentary all its own. Neuter Vick!

  • Westward

    @ Fred Santos

    Rossi’s blood, which website..?

    I have a gift card…

    @ Frenchie

    I have a stone and can hit a Renault from here… Like I said, add up totals from all the companies mentioned, I will bet the Motorcycles are more, i.e. I would think Rossi’s salary should be on par, yet it is not…

    @ joe

    I don’t know much about this Vick character, but I have looked him up. I noticed one thing about him that I think is unique in sports. Accountability.

    I have read his crime, punishment, sentence, release, and redemption. What is absent, are articles with statements of denial, and attempts to avoid responsibility. In short, it seems to me that he took it like a man…

    No army of lawyers, nor did he play the media.

    If I know nothing else about him, he did wrong, he served his punishment, and it would seem that on merit, he is being redeemed.

    That seems particularly christian to me…

  • Frenchie


    I get your point but I think it’s not about the wealth of these companies, it’s about return on investment, how many viewers for F1, how many for MotoGP?

  • David

    Cool. You guys must have read my comment a few days ago, in one of your articles, about Rossi making the Forbes top 20.

    If y’all need to keep up with industry news, feel free to drop me a line….lol

  • Shawn


    The only F1 driver on that list that makes “nearly twice” the salary is Alonso, who’s ultimately paid by Fiat which has a Net Income forty times higher than Ducati. The next one is Hamiltion, who’s salary is 47% higher than Rossi’s, so nowhere near twice as much, and his salary is paid for by the sponsors on the McLaren car, not car sales. The Lotus in F1 is an endorsement, no Lotus car sales go into Grosjean’s or Raikonnen’s salaries, even if they were on the list, which they’re not. And Renault SELLS engines to F1 teams. They make money off the sport, they don’t pay for any driver’s salary. Clearly you have no idea what you’re typing.

  • jw


  • JoeKing

    I think a more interesting comparison would be their hourly pay. If Rossi rides 4hrs/18 races compared to tennis/baseball/golf/basketball players’s seasons, his ranking would go up.

    Of course, he gets paid chump change compared to Mayweather’s 2 fights for $85m & Mariano Reviera (Yankess’ closer) getting $14,591 PER PITCH!

    When you consider that Rossi makes $2million a race to languish mid-pack & most people don’t make that in their livetime….its not surprising some wonder if he’s a bit overcompensated.

  • Ben

    The whole sport industry is full of overcompensation. To me it’s amazing that a lot more sportsmen don’t share their riches with those less fortunate and make the world a better place. But you wont find any of these guys making a massive contribution, they may setup some charities, which also helps their rep by good PR, but will anyone makle such a massive difference, in the same vein as people like Bill Gates and what he has done in recent years ? (no I’m not a Microsoft Fanboy btw)

    Nope, these overpaid and overpampered Princes are addicted to fame and fortune, and pretty much all are willing to turn a blind eye to poverty, homelessness, etc in their home countries.

    How about a Forbes list for people who make the most *difference* and not just the most cash. That would be a far more interesting list to read.

  • Westward

    @ Shawn

    All of these companies do business, whether they sell cars, engine, or widgets. If they don’t make the necessary revenue selling whatever it is they sell, they don’t have enough to afford their name on anything that runs around a circuit. Otherwise, my local bike shop wants their business logo on the side of a Yamaha M1 in MotoGP (I hear the space is available)

    Semantics aside, whether they make 29 million(Alonso), 25 million(Hamilton), or 20 million (Schumacher) the point is, the revenue that the companies who participate in F1 generate, is no more, if not less than what the Motorcycle companies generate, yet the salaries are higher on average by a lot. Rossi is an exception in MotoGP. Stoner and Lorenzo make nothing even close…

    17 million regardless of who actually pays it, be it Marlboro or Ducati, pales in comparison to 25-29 million. Stoner has two championship just like Fernando Alonso, yet doesn’t make a salary even in the vicinity to him. Not to mention Honda probably sells more in scooters alone, than Farreri does in cars and you could add the apparel as well…

  • Shawn

    @ Westward

    You don’t seem to understand how F1 salaries are paid. It has very little to do with sales of vehicles. F1 salaries are mostly paid by advertising on the car. So its based on the sale of the products and services of F1 sponsors. F1 has viewerships of over half a billion per season. The companies that advertise in F1 are willing to pay much more money than advertisers in MotoGP because of the huge sales potential of the audience. The Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren teams have yearly budgets of $250 million because the companies that advertise on the cars are willing to support those numbers. Stoner and Lorenzo would be able to get the same salaries as F1 if Dorna could find the same audience numbers as the FOM and Ecclestone can. It’s a complete free market system mostly based on advertising potential, not on car sales. Stoner and Lorenzo simply aren’t worth as much as Alonso or Hamilton cause no one is willing to pay for it. No one dictates that MotoGP riders must earn less than F1 drivers, the don’t earn more cause they don’t have the same advertising power.

  • Jesze

    No wonder he refuses to move aside.