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How much do top soccer players earn?

By Kaitlin Madden, CareerBuilder.com
Spanish football club Real Madrid's forward Cristiano Ronaldo earns $17 million a year.
Spanish football club Real Madrid's forward Cristiano Ronaldo earns $17 million a year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • For the top five soccer players in the world, salaries averaged $14.67 million
  • Real Madrid's star forward Cristiano Ronaldo earns $17.06 million a year
  • Lionel Messi, 22, is the youngest among the highest-paid soccer stars with $13.74 million
  • Olympic medal winner Samuel Eto'o has a contract worth $13.74 million

(Careerbuilder.com) -- To most Americans, David Beckham is a soccer superstar. But to the rest of the world, he's pretty much an average professional footballer -- at least in terms of salary.

Beckham's nearly $6.5 million annual contract doesn't even crack the list of the top 20 highest-paid soccer stars, and barely puts him onto the list of the top 50 earners in the sport.

Soccer versus American football salaries

Although top athletes in neither sport are lacking in terms of base pay, the salaries of NFL players surpass those of professional soccer players.

For the NFL's 2009-2010 season, average salary for the top five highest-paid players (not including endorsement deals) was $20.32 million. For the top five footballers, salaries averaged $14.67 million.

In honor of the World Cup, here's a look at the paychecks that go with being a star of the world's favorite sport.

The top 5

1. Coming in at No. 1 is 25-year-old Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns $17.06 million* per year as a forward for Spanish football club Real Madrid. Ronaldo, who also captains the Portuguese national team, is the most expensive soccer player in history. Real Madrid bought him from English club Manchester United in 2009 for a cool $132 million.

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2. Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes in at No. 2, earning a reported $15.7 million for the 2009-2010 season. The 29-year-old striker plays for Barcelona and the Swedish national team. Until Ronaldo's Real Madrid deal was inked in 2009, Ibrahimovic was soccer's highest-paid player.

3. At 22, Lionel Messi is the youngest player to make the top 20 list of highest-paid soccer stars. Messi's 2009-2010 contract is worth $13.74 million. Messi, a striker for Spanish champions Barcelona, will represent his home country, Argentina, at this year's World Cup.

4. Samuel Eto'o is the captain of Cameroon's national team and a member of Italy's Inter Milan club, the European champions. The striker was part of the team that won the 2000 Summer Olympics and will participate in his third World Cup tournament this year. His experience has paid off; his current contract is worth $13.74 million.

5. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, more commonly known as Kaka to fans, rounds out the top five. Kaka, 27, hails from Brazil and will make $13.13 million as a midfielder for Real Madrid this year. Before teammate Ronaldo's Real Madrid deal, Kaka also spent time at the top of the highest-paid players list.

The rest of the top 20

6. Karim Benzema
Country: France
Club Team: Real Madrid
Age: 22
Salary: $11.17 million

7. Carlos Tevez
Country: Argentina
Club Team: Manchester City
Age: 26
Salary: $10.57 million

8. John Terry
Country: England
Club Team: Chelsea
Age: 29
Salary: $9.81 million

9. Frank Lampard
Country: England
Club Team: Chelsea
Age: 31
Salary: $9.81 million

10. Thierry Henry
Country: France
Club Team: Barcelona
Age: 32
Salary: $9.81 million

11. Xavi
Country: Spain
Club Team: Barcelona
Age: 30
Salary: $9.81 million

12. Ronaldinho
Country: Brazil
Club Team: AC Milan
Age: 30
Salary: $9.81 million

13. Steven Gerrard
Country: England
Club Team: Liverpool
Age: 29
Salary: $9.81 million

14. Daniel Alves
Country: Brazil
Club Team: Barcelona
Age: 26
Salary: $9.21 million

15. Michael Ballack
Country: Germany
Club Team: Chelsea
Age: 33
Salary: $8.45 million

16. Raul
Country: Spain
Club Team: Real Madrid
Age: 32
Salary: $8.45 million

17. Rio Ferdinand
Country: England
Club Team: Manchester United
Age: 31
Salary: $8.45 million

18. Kolo Toure
Country: Ivory Coast
Club Team: Manchester City
Age: 29
Salary: $8.45 million

19. Wayne Rooney
Country: England
Club Team: Manchester United
Age: 24
Salary: $7.85 million

20. Robinho
Country: Brazil
Club Team: Manchester City
Age: 26
Salary: $7.85 million

*Soccer player salary information provided by Portuguese marketing agency Futebol Finance

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