Ronaldo to Al Nassr? The 7 most lucrative contracts in football history

Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain celebrate he’s 1st goal with Kylian Mbappé and Neymar during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on September 28, 2021 in Paris, France. Credit: Alamy
Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain celebrate he’s 1st goal with Kylian Mbappé and Neymar during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on September 28, 2021 in Paris, France. Credit: Alamy

Cristiano Ronaldo’s offer from Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr would be one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of football – but where exactly would it rank?

The 37-year-old Portugal superstar has received an offer from Al Nassr that’s been described by transfer insider Fabrizio Romano as “the biggest proposal in the history of football”. Writing in The Guardian, Romano suggests that the Saudi Pro League have offered the veteran a mind-blowing €200million-a-season contract that runs until 2025.

In total, should Ronaldo see out the contract – which would run until he’s in his 40s – he’d earn approximately €500million. He’s yet to decide his future and is focused on Portugal’s World Cup campaign. But if he signs, would it really be the most lucrative contract in football history? Not quite.

We’ve taken a look at the seven most lucrative contracts in football history. Note: all figures come via French outlet La Parisien.

7. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) – €113m

Five years – 2016-2021

The Carrington academy graduate left United on a free in 2012. He then helped Juventus get back to the top and established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe in the process.

Having won four successive Scudetto and played in a Champions League final, it was always going to cost United a pretty penny to get him back. Not only was his reported £89million fee a world record, but the contract negotiated for the player by infamous superagent Mino Raiola was one of the most expensive ever seen.

Pogba earned over €100million over the course of the five-year deal he penned on his return in 2016. United activated a one-year extension in the deal and he ended up staying for a sixth year, departing on a free to Juventus for a second time in 2022.

The France international lifted the League Cup and Europa League trophies during his first year back, but since then endured five long and frustrating trophyless seasons. It’s difficult to argue United got their money’s worth, given they invested over £200million on the player all-in.

6. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) – €178m

Six years – 2016-2022

In October 2016, Gareth Bale signed a new contract at Real Madrid that made him the best-paid player in world football.

There was a logic to it at the time; the Welshman’s moments of magic helped deliver two Champions League trophies. A further three – and three La Liga titles – followed that contract renewal, but Los Blancos ultimately saw diminishing returns in his latter years.

It was kind of sad to see Bale as a peripheral squad player by the end of his eight-year stay at the Bernabeu. But those exorbitant wages explain why he stayed until the end of his contract, eventually leaving on a free in 2022.

=4. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) – €220m

Four years – 2018-2022

In the summer of 2018, Juventus had won their seventh Serie A in a row. With Italy well and truly conquered, they set their sights on the next frontier – Europe.

The Old Lady had finished runners-up in the Champions League twice in the preceding years, and the mega-money signing of Ronaldo was thought to be the last piece of the puzzle to take them that next step.

They paid a club-record €117million to sign the Portuguese icon, who was the European Cup’s all-time top scorer and had just lifted Ol’ Big Ears for a fourth time in five years. They also handed him a massive four-year deal worth over €200million.

Ronaldo, inevitably, scored plenty of goals – but things didn’t quite go to plan. They retained the Scudetto in 2018-19 and 2020-21, making it nine in a row, but they went backwards in Europe – being eliminated by Ajax, Lyon and Porto during his three years there.

By 2021, they’d also been knocked off their perch in Italy, crawling to an underwhelming fourth-place finish. Ronaldo left Turin with a year left on his deal, but has remained well-remunerated…

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

READ: The 10 highest-paid players in the Premier League in 2022-23

=4. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – €220m

Five years – 2016-2021

A month after Bale’s new deal, Ronaldo followed suit and once again became Los Blancos’ top earner at the Bernabeu by signing a bumper five-year contract extension.

At that point, he was already Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer and allowing him to run down his contract was unthinkable.

But he didn’t stick around to see out the deal, flouncing off to Juventus, having spoken about feeling underappreciated.

“I felt it inside the club, especially from the president, that they no longer considered me the same way that they did in the start,” he said. “In the first four or five years there I had the feeling of being ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’,” he told France Football.

“Less afterwards. The president looked at me through eyes that didn’t want to say the same thing, as if I was no longer indispensable to them, if you know what I mean.”

Madrid got 450 goals out of Ronaldo during his peak years, and turned a profit, selling him at the age of 33. Not bad business, that.

3. Neymar (PSG) – €267m

Six years – 2017-2023

No wonder Neymar left Barcelona, with this kind of cash on the table. That’s on top of the €222million release clause that PSG paid for the Brazilian.

A head-spinning number, all-in.

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – €555m

Four years – 2017-2021

Such was Messi’s status, popularity and on-field importance at Barcelona, former president Josep Maria Bartomeu can reasonably argue that he had little choice but to give in to the Argentinian’s wage demands and make him the highest-paid footballer in the world.

But this was just part of the club’s reckless financial mismanagement, which eventually resulted in the whole house of cards falling down, with Lionel Messi saying a tearful goodbye to the only club he’d ever represented in the summer of 2021. Barcelona literally couldn’t afford to keep him, which tells you something about where they went wrong.

1. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) – €630m

Three years – 2022-2025

Mbappe will earn more per year than Bale earned in the entirety of his six-year deal at Madrid. No wonder he stayed put.

READ NEXT: The 10 highest-paid footballers in the world in 2022: Ronaldo 2nd, Messi 3rd…

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