Lionel Messi is the highest paid footballer in MLS by a massive margin. AP

Lionel Messi makes a record $20.45 million annual salary from Inter Miami and that is more than the payrolls of all but four teams in Major League Soccer. The salary details came out in public after the player union, which regularly releases the full pay details of MLS, shared that Messi has an annualized compensation of $20,446,667 at Miami.

He has a base salary of $12 million but the guaranteed payout rises to $20,446,667 due to various bonuses.

The figures from the players’ union do not include the huge income the Argentine World Cup winner receives in commercial deals, endorsements and sponsorships from companies such as Adidas and Apple.

Messi signed his last contract with Spanish club Barcelona in 2017, a four-year deal that gave him the potential to earn 138 million euros per season including salary and add-ons. Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain in August 2021, after his contract with Barca ended and was reported to be earning between 30-35 million euros with the French club.

The 36-year-old joined Miami in July last year on a deal which runs until the end of the 2025 season but he may still be receiving payments from Barca.

Joan Laporta, the Barca president, said in January 2022 that the club were scheduled to make deferred salary payments to the player until 2025.

Big money for Insigne and Busquets

Toronto’s Italian striker Lorenzo Insigne, who was MLS’s best-ever paid player until Messi’s arrival, was second on the list with a guaranteed income of $15.4 million from the Canadian club.

Messi’s Spanish team-mate, Sergio Busquets, the 35-year-old former Barca midfielder, is the third top earner in the league on $8.8 million guaranteed.

Miami’s former Barca duo of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Spanish full-back Jordi Alba each earn $1.5 million per year.

Inter Miami’s total wage bill is $41.68 million with Toronto second on $31.41 million. Current league champions, the Columbus Crew, had a total salary cost of $15.19 million, ranked 21st in the league.

Messi shares a dressing room with a number of team-mates earning just a tiny fraction of his income – defender Noah Allen, a regular part of the matchday squad, earns a total of $91,383.

The average MLS salary is $594,390 in 2024 which is up 12.1% from last year.

Miami are able to pay Messi such a high salary because of the ‘Designated Player’ rule which was brought in to allow Los Angeles Galaxy to sign David Beckham in 2007 on a base salary of $6.5 million a year with his total deal earning him around $50 million in five years.

Salary comparison

While Messi’s income is huge by MLS standards it is well below the levels of top performers in other major sports in the USA.

Last year Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow signed a five-year deal worth $55 million per season, a new league record.

The NBA’s top earner Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors makes $51.9 million.

With AFP inputs

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