Lionel Messi, Inter Miami
Overall, Messi earns between $50 million and $60 million per year with Inter Miami according to club owner Jorge Mas. Nathan Ray Seebeck/Via TODAY Sports/Reuters

SEATTLE - Employing one of the best soccer players in the history of the game comes with a high price. According to the MLS Players Association salary data released on May 16, Lionel Messi earned a little over $20.4 million in his first full season playing for MLS team Inter Miami. His salary alone constitutes half of Miami's entire payroll.

Inter Miami leads the league with a $41.7 million payroll, more than $10 million more than the second-highest team on this list (Toronto $31.4 million). In his first year of the two-and-a-half-year deal he signed with Inter Miami in 2023, Messi earned more than 27 of the teams currently playing in Major League Soccer. Toronto, Chicago and Nashville are the only teams with a higher payroll than what Messi receives from Inter Miami.

The Argentine's base salary is $12 million but if we add all guaranteed compensations that number jumps to $20,446,667 according to MLS Players Association data. Although that number might seem high, Messi earns much more than that thanks to other revenue streams such as endorsement deals with Adidas and a revenue-sharing agreement with the league's broadcast partner Apple.

His current deal runs through the 2025 season but just 12 months in into his American adventure, Messi has shown that he is worth the money. The Argentine is the only player this season with at least 10 goals and 10 assists in the campaign.

If we compare Messi's annual earnings to the average guaranteed compensation in the entire league, the difference is staggering. The average guaranteed compensation in MLS is $594,390. The annual average guaranteed compensation numbers include a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the length of a player's contract.

According to Sportico, Messi is expected to earn up to $150 million with the Herons before any additional compensation from any endorsement deals with Adidas and Apple. By the end of his contract the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner is expected to take his total career earnings to an estimated $1.6 billion that will put him among the five highest earners in the history of sports. Michael Jordan tops that list with more than $3.7 billion (as of March of 2024).

Despite Messi's huge contract, that number could still go up considerably thanks to the unique deal he signed with Inter Miami. When he joined MLS, the Argentine agreed to a contract that included a team equity component that could see him exercise his ownership stake in the franchise after he is done playing for Inter Miami.

In February of 2024, Forbes valued Inter Miami to be worth $1.03 billion, a 72% increase from 2023. As Messi continues to put the Herons on the world soccer map, his total compensation will keep on going up.

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