Soccer undoubtedly claims the title of the world's most beloved sport, consistently placing its star players among the wealthiest individuals in their respective nations. Tennis, closely behind soccer and golf, has established itself as a lucrative sport with its significant following and robust presence across Europe, the United Kingdom, the Americas, and select regions in Asia and Africa.
In this realm of sports supremacy, Novak Djokovic and Lionel Messi emerge as the epitomes of excellence in tennis and soccer, respectively. Their unwavering dominance and marketability, both on and off the field, have cemented their statuses as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in their sports.
Both tennis and soccer operate on a merit-based financial system, where victories translate directly into earnings. Surprisingly, there was a time when Djokovic's earnings rivalled Messi's, challenging the norm in the world of sports salaries.
Financial Face-Off: 2011-2016
From 2011-2016, a critical comparison reveals a staggering fact: Messi's earnings surpassed Djokovic's by a mere $6.8 million. During this period, Messi, an Argentinian marvel and FC Barcelona's crown jewel, commanded an annual salary of $17.64 million according to his contract with LaLiga.
It is crucial to note that Messi's prime years at Barcelona coincided with Djokovic's pinnacle in tennis, presenting a unique opportunity for financial comparison. Focusing solely on fixed salaries in 2011 and 2012, Messi earned approximately $35.28 million.
The intricacies of a soccer contract, influenced by team dynamics and increasing commercialization, differ significantly from the relatively straightforward income valuation of a tennis player, reliant on guaranteed prize money and potential bonuses.
Novak Djokovic's Financial Ascendancy
Thus, our comparison juxtaposes Messi's fixed salary against Djokovic's annual prize money. 2011 was a landmark year for Djokovic, with three Grand Slam victories contributing to his impressive $12.62 million in prize money, a figure that slightly increased to $12.8 million in 2012.
Despite trailing Messi by nearly $10 million, the financial landscape of tennis was shifting, paralleling the lucrative trends in soccer. The subsequent period of 2013-2016 saw Messi securing a new contract with Barcelona, estimated at $14.75 million per year, culminating in $59 million in fixed salary over four years.
Meanwhile, Djokovic ascended to the zenith of tennis, earning $12.45 million in 2013 and reaching a staggering $21.15 million in 2015, following a season of unparalleled success. By the end of 2016, Djokovic had accumulated $62.11 million, surpassing Messi's earnings for the same period by $3.11 million.
While Messi's 2017 Barcelona deal significantly widened the financial gap between the two, Djokovic's earnings from 2011-2016 stand as a testament to his financial prowess in tennis, challenging the earnings of a soccer legend and rewriting the narrative of sports salaries.