Rich List: Cashed-up Spanish sportsmen

Forbes magazine has just put together its annual rankings of the world's highest-paid athletes in advertising terms. Which Spanish sports star do you think is the 'King Midas' of endorsements?

Rich List: Cashed-up Spanish sportsmen
Does Fernando Alonso take poll position in the advertising stakes? Photo: PresidenBertho/Flickr

Tiger Woods (€42 million), Roger Federer (€26 million) and Phil Mickleson (€25 million) top the Forbes exclusive advertising rankings, with athletes from American league basketball, baseball and American football filling up of the Top 100 places.

But Spain’s sporting elite are also divvying up the endorsement spoils and four sports are represented by the country’s four richest athletes. 

Here's the countdown of Spain's top-earning advertising magnets. 

4. Pau Gasol

Gasol is one of the most decorated European imports to the NBA and considered by many here as the best Spanish basketball player of all time. 

The Catalan basketball player has “chosen his sponsors wisely”, according to Santiago de Mollinedo, director of advertising agency Personality Media.

“There are few sportsmen in Spain who are as highly regarded as Gasol and Nadal. They’re immediately associated with hard work, overcoming obstacles and winning.”

The Lakers forward has endorsement deals with Nike, Banco Popular and San Miguel, adding an extra €1.9 million a year to his earnings.

3. Fernando Torres

Although most would agree that Torres’s form has been erratic since signing for Chelsea, he did win the Champions League with them last year and Euro 2012 with Spain. 

Off the pitch he counts Nike among his sponsors and can be seen starring alongside Leo Messi in several  Pepsi commercials.

“He’s associated with modernity, trendsetting and attractiveness, especially outside Spain”, says De Mollinedo. 

The Spanish striker currently has €15 million in total earnings, €2.3 million of which are from endorsements.

2. Fernando Alonso

Asturian Fernando Alonso remains the highest-paid driver in F1, earning close to €23 million annually from his salary with Ferrari.

The Spaniard also makes €2.3 million from endorsements with Viceroy, Europcar, Oakley and more recently the banking giants Santander.

“He’s evolved from being a world champion who had some problems with the press to a professional and real leader who with the help of sponsors like Banco Santander has really brushed up his image”, De Mollinedo explains.

1. Rafa Nadal

The Majorcan tennis ace has expanded his endorsement portfolio in recent years and counts Nike, Babolat, Kia Motors, Richard Mille and Bacardi among his sponsors.

De Mollinedo calls him “The King Midas of advertising in Spain".

“If a successful athlete that stands out from the rest hasn’t had their reputation tarnished in any way, he or she can be a great face for most brands.”

Rafa was ranked among the top two in the ATP's year-end standings for seven straight years before the serious knee injury he recently sustained.

His whopping €19 million in annual endorsement money makes him the best-paid Spanish sportsman (7th in the world according to Forbes).

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Spain’s greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires

Double NBA winner and Europe's most successful basketballer Pau Gasol said on Tuesday he had made the "difficult decision" to retire, but at 41 was at ease with his choice.

Spain's greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires
Spanish player Pau Gasol Saez attends a press conference to announce his retirement, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Gasol, the older brother of recently-released Memphis Grizzlies centre Marc Gasol, won the competition in 2009 and 2010 during his time at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two years ago, he suffered a foot injury which threatened to end his career earlier than planned.

“It is a difficult decision. As you can imagine, it is difficult, after so many years, but it is a considered decision, you have to change gear a little, and know how to enjoy it,” ex-centre Gasol told reporters at a press conference in Barcelona.

“I wanted to end up playing and enjoying myself, not on crutches and with operations,” he added.

He was a six-time NBA All-Star after being named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2002 and won his two NBA crowns alongside Kobe Bryant.

Gasol emotionally paid tribute to former Lakers team-mate Bryant, who died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play in the second quarter while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Los Angeles Lakers stars Gasol and Bryant celebrate a play during the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AFP

“One last word for my friend Kobe Bryant. I would have really liked for him to be here, but it’s not possible,” Gasol said with tears in his eyes.

“Life isn’t fair some times. He taught me how to be a better player, a better leader, I always considered him as a big brother,” he added.

‘The Golden Kids’

For Spain, Gasol, who also had spells with the Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks, claimed two Olympic silver medals and a bronze as well as three EuroBasket crowns.

He was the leader of his country’s generation nicknamed ‘The Golden Kids’ as he led a side including his sibling as well as former Grizzlies shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro and ex-Portland TrailBlazers small forward Rudy Fernandez to the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

The Catalan, standing at 2.16m, is among the continent’s greatest players in the NBA along with German Dirk Nowitzki, Croatian Drazen Petrovic, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and Frenchman Tony Parker, who he passed as EuroBasket’s leading scorer in 2017.

His last international appearance came at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo during the quarter-final defeat to the USA.

He finished his club career with a Liga ACB title in Spain in June while with hometown club Barcelona but failed to clinch the EuroLeague.

“I am thankful to all. Having won one more league with Barca,” he said.

Gasol said he did not want to become a coach but indicated that his future still lay within the game he has graced for over 20 years. “Consultant or director… We’ll see. I’ve already started to speak with many NBA teams,” he said.