The 2018 World Cup in Russia got us thinking in the WhichCar office about who is paid more: soccer superstars of F1 drivers?

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The figures used for this story comes courtesy of Forbes, which calculates the highest-paid sports stars in the world each year.

Sporting contracts can be a secretive and convoluted business – with drivers and players understandably wanting to keep exact figures secret, and base salaries being topped up by performance bonuses and sponsor contracts. But sitting at the top of the tree for our showdown is Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi, who brings home a reported $149.5 million each year as striker for Spanish juggernaut FC Barcelona.

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While arguably the biggest sports star in the world, Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo is just the second-highest paid soccer star according to Forbes, with a $145.5 million base salary at Spanish rival Real Madrid. However, it’s believed Ronaldo’s supplementary deals with sponsors such as Nike elevates his total earnings above even Messi.

Either way, Ronaldo’s payroll eclipses that of the highest-paid Formula 1 driver, Sebastian Vettel, who pockets $67 million per year thanks to Ferrari.

Arch-rival Lewis Hamilton might soon overtake Vettel with a rumoured $72 million a year contract being negotiated. That would see the current World Drivers’ Champion receive a hefty pay rise over the $41.7 million currently afforded by his Mercedes-AMG team.

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The third-highest paid Formula 1 driver is Fernando Alonso, with McLaren dropping a reported $40.4 million into his bank account each year.

As far as local boys go, Socceroo Aaron Mooy earns $20 million at Huddersfield Town in the English Premier League, making him the highest-paid member of the Australian national squad. Surprisingly, that’s more than double the amount paid to the only Aussie on the Formula 1 grid, Daniel ‘the Honey Badger’ Ricciardo, who earns a comparatively paltry $8.7 million a year at Red Bull Racing.

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Soccer stars vs F1 driver salaries

  1. Lionel Messi – FC Barcelona, Argentina - $149,500,000
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid CF, Portugal - $145,500,000
  3. Neymar da Silva Santos – Paris Saint-Germain FC, Brazil - $121,000,000
  4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari - $67,000,000
  5. Gareth Bale – Real Madrid CF, Wales - $46,600,600
  6. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-AMG - $41,700,000  
  7. Fernando Alonso – McLaren - $40,400,000
  8. Paul Pogba – Manchester United, France - $39,700,000
  9. Oscar dos Santos Emboaba – Shainghai SIPG FC, Brazil - $37,000,000
  10. Wayne Rooney – Everton FC, England - $36,300,000
  11. Luis Suarez – FC Barcelona, Uraguay - $36,200,000
  12. Aaron Mooy – Huddersfield Town AFC, Australia - $20,000,000
  13. Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes-AMG - $11,500,000 million
  14. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari - $9,400,000
  15. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing - $8,500,000
  16. Nico Hulkenberg – Renault Sport F1 - $4,000,000
  17. Max Verstappen – Red Bull Racing -$4,000,000
  18. Sergio Perez – Force India - $3,400,000
  19. Romain Grosjean – Haas - $2,000,000
  20. Kevin Magnussen – Hass - $1,300,000
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Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-AMG - $41,700,000