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Patrick Mahomes boasts the NFL’s biggest contract and will earn a staggering $210m over the next four years… but who are the best-paid stars of the world’s other top sports?

This week NFL superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes restructured his already eye-watering deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that will see the two-time Super Bowl winner shoot back up the division’s list of highest paid stars.

Mahomes had previously set the record for the biggest contract in NFL history, after he was tied down to a 10-year, £365.6million ($450m) deal that more or less blew the market out of the water, at least where quarterbacks are concerned.

Just like when Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona, the going rate for quarterbacks’ services across the NFL has rocketed, with the likes of Joe Burrow (£44.8m), Justin Herbert (£42.7m) and Lamar Jackson (£42.4m) taking home huge annual sums.

Now Mahomes has taken his previous record to a new level, and after restructuring his deal, he is set to rake in some £170m ($210.6m) from 2023-2026, making him the highest paid American Football player in history over a four-year period – although Burrow still out-earns him in terms of a one-year salary.

In light of the 28-year-old’s landmark contract, Mail Sport’s Dominic Hogan takes you through the biggest earners in some of the world’s most popular sports over the last year.

Football – Cristiano Ronaldo, £175m per year

Football is the world’s most popular sport, and the fact that one of its greatest ever stars is one of the highest paid athletes in the world, should come as no surprise.

The Portuguese icon’s credentials need not be reiterated, but let’s indulge ourselves; five Ballon d’Or awards, five Champions Leagues, 19-time top goal scorer, seven-time domestic league winner, a European Champion with Portugal and proud owner of some 34 total winners’ medals.

Although synonymous with Real Madrid’s dominance of Europe in the 2010s and for his breakout performances at Manchester United, Ronaldo now plies his trade in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr after his acrimonious departure from the Red Devils.

The price for bringing in one of the game’s greatest exponents? Just a cool £175m a year. And that’s on top of all the other endorsements, business ventures, sponsorships and social media money that the 38-year-old earns. Astonishing.

The money that Saudi Pro League sides have been able to offer, particularly this summer, has proven a shock to the system, even for football’s regular financial power houses like Manchester City, PSG and Real Madrid.

This recent transfer window alone the Gulf state has seen the arrival of the likes of Naymer (£130m per-year), Karim Benzema (£86m p/y), N’Golo Kante (£86m p/y) and Jordan Henderson (£36.4m p/y) on massive annual packages. With the Pro League showing little sign of slowing down, it might not be long before Ronaldo’s spot is toppled as football’s biggest earner.

Golf – Viktor Hovland, £26.2m in 2023

In a year of seismic change for golf, with the shock merger between the formerly rival PGA and LIV tours, there is at least a note of continuity in the huge sums that the sport’s biggest names took home in the last year.

But chief among the beneficiaries was Viktor Hovland, who only finished third in the regular season in the earnings rankings with around $14.11m (£11.5m), but after winning the FedEx Cup, he increased his take-home by a stunning 127 per cent, adding a further $18m (£14.7m) to reach approximately £26.2m.

Scottie Scheffler had topped the PGA Tour’s money rankings so far in 2023, with a huge $21m (£17.1m), but managed to add just $2m (£1.6m) in the FedEx cup to finish on around £18.7m – not exactly a sum to be sniffed at.

Despite winning two Majors this year – the Open Championship and the Masters – Jon Rahm ended up on a combined £14.6m ($18m), although he played 17 fewer rounds on the PGA Tour than the other two.

The LIV Tour saw Dustin Johnson take home some $46.1m (£37.6m) in total last year, having taken home £14.6m ($18m) for topping the rankings at the end of the season, but this year’s leader at the moment is Talor Gooch with $14.1m (£11.5m) although there are still three events in the LIV Golf League to play in 2023.

F1 – Lewis Hamilton, £50m-per-year

Lewis Hamilton may not be the fastest man in the Formula One paddock this season, but he has certainly reclaimed his title as the sport’s highest earner.

After Max Verstappen put pen to paper on a deal that would earn him £40m-a-year for five years in 2022, Hamilton penned a contract of his own in August that sees him one-up his rival, taking home £50m-a-year.

There had been some concern over whether the seven-time world champion would continue his legend in the sport at the age of 38, but much like Ronaldo he is proving that he still has unfinished business and has committed to a two-year deal that will keep him at the Silver Arrows until at least 2025.

However, Mail sport understands that Hamilton had been keen for a five-year extension at the time of negotiations, with a source telling us: ‘Lewis wants five years, and if it were just a one-year extension I don’t think he’d accept it.

‘They may need to reach a compromise because, while George (Russell) has probably made peace with the idea of Lewis being around for a couple of years, he might not accept being in the shadow of his team-mate for the long-term.

‘There is always a lure about Ferrari, but Lewis will probably think that his only hope of winning his eighth title is by staying where he is.

‘Money is not a delaying factor.’

Two-years it was, though, although Hamilton will surely not be turning his nose up at the surety of £100m for his troubles for the length of his new contract.

UFC – Israel Adesanya, £5.49m in 2023

The UFC’s rich list has undeniably been dominated by Conor McGregor over the last few years, with the Irishman still holding the record for a single fight purse at £18.8m ($23m), but 2023 belonged to Israel Adesanya.

‘Issy’ was in action twice this year losing once and winning the other, but even in defeat the Nigerian-born fighter landed a heavy purse for his troubles – perhaps heavier than winner Sean Strickland.

In his April victory over arch nemesis Alex Pereira Adesanya scooped up around £2.6m ($3.2m); £1.6m ($2m) from his Pay-Per-View shares, £815,000 ($1m) base pay for the fight, £26,100 ($32,000) in sponsorships and £40,800 ($50,000) in performance bonuses, plus additional extras.

It was against his Brazilian rival at UFC 287 that Adesanya regained his middleweight crown after losing it in November 2022, but his new reign as king of the division would last just five months before a shock defeat to Strickland earlier this month – although his earnings may have softened that blow at UFC 293.

Another £815,000 ($1m) in base salary and £34,200 ($42,000) in sponsorship came his way, but coming in as reigning middleweight champion, his PPV earnings went up a notch and he brought home some £2.04m ($2.5m), meaning that with a grand total of £2.89m – almost £300,000 more than he earned in victory.

‘Issy’ may not have the business portfolio of McGregor, but he is absolutely killing it in the octagon, and out-earned Strickland (£1.22m) on the night by more than double.

NBA – Steph Curry, £42.8m per year

It is perhaps strange that two of the game’s all-time greats might both hail from the same small town in Ohio, but Akron can lay claim to both LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Both have obviously had storied careers in basketball, but after to-ing and fro-ing for the unofficial claim to being the NBA’s best player, it’s Curry who has topped the charts for annual earnings for the last seven years.

His current deal sees the Golden State Warriors star earn some £42.8m a year – narrowly pipping the Chicago Bulls’ Zach Lavine (£42.79m) in the money lists – and there’s no arguing that the 35-year-old is worth every penny of it.

Four championship rings, 2022 Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, nine-time all-star – his name has even lent itself to every single speculative attempt to throw anything at a designated target from an arbitrary ‘three-point line’.

Curry’s terminator-esque accuracy from the free-throw line, outrageous three-point success rate and his all-round offensive talent make him one of the sport’s all-time greats. There aren’t many that would begrudge him his title as the NBA’s top-earner.

NFL – Patrick Mahomes, £170m-a-year (2023-26)

As we’ve already established, Mahomes has recently claimed the title of the NFL’s best paid player until 2026, having restructured his already titanic deal.

Joe Burrow currently leads the way in terms of an annual salary (£44.8m – £42.5m), but Mahomes’ is a record over a four-year period, with the money on his initial £367m deal being moved around, and reports suggest that his agent will sit back down with the Chiefs in 2026 for further talks.

Mahomes will make £46.2m ($56.9m) this season, £36.2m ($44.5m) next season, £40.7m ($50m) in 2025 and £46.2m ($56.8m) for the 2026 season.

Mahomes signed his original 10-year deal three years ago, and has already delivered on that with a second Super Bowl MVP award earlier in February.

Still just 28, Mahomes is approaching his prime – which in itself is a scary thought – and by the time his mammoth contract does eventually run up, he will be 36, and is sure to have added more rings to his budding collection.

The Texan has already passed for 24,772 yards, 196 touchdowns and 51 interceptions in 82 starts since the Chiefs drafted him as the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Tennis – Novak Djokovic, £8.62m in winnings in 2023

What is there left to say about Serbia’s all-consuming tennis god?

The only real arguments left against the claim that he’s the greatest of all time are built off semantics, or made by hardcore doubles enthusiasts.

Even those of us that prefer to enjoy the fact we’ve lived through a time dominated by the three best male players to pick up a racket have run out of words to described Djokovic, and here he is, continuing to pick up trophy after trophy, accolade after accolade, record after record.

Djokovic has scooped up a stunning £8.62m in winnings this year so far, in part due to his Australian, French and US Open heroics, which won him a combined £6.86m alone, with the Serb also picking up a further five titles, with a runners-up plate at Wimbledon earning him another £1.2m.

Djokovic is not only the top-earner for 2023, but is the most successful tennis player of all-time in terms of money earned, winning a staggering £143m across his career, finishing the year on top of the money rankings a record five times to boot.

Cricket – Virat Kohli, £6.74m a year

Unlike most of the sports on this list, cricket’s payment structure is far from simple.

As well as receiving an annual fee from your international cricket council based on a tiered system of relative importance to the side, players will pick up match fees in all three international formats (Test, T20I, ODI) that they take part in, and earn contracts at franchise teams all around the world.

For Virat Kohli, though, that all translates to a reported salary of around £561,000-a-month overall, as per GQ, which translates to £6.74m-a-year – which is more than fair enough for one of the greatest batters of his generation, and perhaps in India’s long and rich cricketing history.

For some fans across India, where cricket enjoys an undisputed place at the pinnacle of the sporting pyramid, the former all-format captain is the star of the show, perhaps the most recognisable face in the country.

At his IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore he earns around £1.5m from the Indian Premier League alone, and around £685,000 from the BCCI.

Kohli is another athlete on this list who profits hugely from his massive social media following, with a whopping 259 Instagram followers. Reports claim that Kohli – the most followed person from Asia on Instagram – can earn as much as $1.2m per sponsored post.

All sports have their superstar, and Kohli is well and truly cricket’s offering.

Rugby – Richie Mo’unga, £1.2m a year

New Zealand’s All-star No 10 Richie Mo’unga is believed to lead the way in rugby – a sport that in the UK has struggled financially in the wake of the Covid outbreak.

Mo’unga is thought to lead the likes of England and Saracens duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje and South Africa and Leicester Tigers star Handre Pollard, on a deal worth around £1.2m-a-year at Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan.

In addition to that, the All-blacks fly half will pick up around £3,600-per-week spent with the national team which of course takes the sum even higher.

However, that’s one thing that the 29-year-old won’t be able to rely on much longer. New Zealand’s fabled national team have eligibility rules in place which stipulate that only those plying their trade domestically will be able to pull on the iconic black jersey.

A number of players have played abroad on a sabbatical basis, while still committing themselves to New Zealand Rugby in the long term, but the fly-half’s three year deal starting in 2024 means that he will likely walk away from the All-Blacks at the end of the current World Cup.

If there’s one think New Zealand aren’t lacking in, it’s world class rugby players. But even with Beauden Barrett likely to retake his old No 10 jersey, Mo’unga’ did a absence that would likely be felt in any team in world rugby.

MLB – Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, £35.3m-a-year

As for Major League Baseball, it’s a huge £35.3m-a-year ($43.3m) for not one but two veterans of the game in the shape of Justin Verlander at the Houston Astros and Max Scherzer with the Texas Rangers.

Both pitchers were on the books at the New York Mets before a late move to cut costs saw both veterans of the MLB leave the franchise.

The key to success as a pitcher is an extensive bag of tricks, an experienced mind and a list of variations as long as your arm and that’s just what these two can boast. There’s a good reason that no player in MLB history has ever been paid as much as they have.

Scherzer’s deal was signed in December 2021 for £106m ($130m) over three years, while Verlander’s was a two-year contract worth £70.6m ($86.7m).

While Scherzer is taking home the big bucks at the Rangers, he is already looking likely to miss a significant portion of the regular season, after reportedly suffering a shoulder strain.

For Verlander, meanwhile, reports emerged last month that he had built up something of a ‘diva’ attitude at the Mets before he was traded, and was thought to have clashed with Scherzer and some of his other team-mates.

Having been caught on camera telling the Red Sox manager Alex Cora to ‘f*** off’, the veteran pitcher could be heading into some hot water with an inauspicious end to the 2023 season.

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