Sharapova tops the list of Russia's richest athletes

At age 18, Maria Sharapova makes $14.5 million

Russian magazine Finans published the second annual list of Russian athletes who were paid top salaries in 2005. Maria Sharapova replaced the NHL player Alexei Yashin at the highest position. Still, the list is mostly about hockey players.

In total, the richest athletes earned slightly more than $179 million in 2005; last year's total amount stood at $195 million. A decrease in the total amount is due a new agreement between hockey clubs and the NHL players' trade union. The majority of hockey players are paid smaller salaries under the new agreement.

Two main sources of earnings were taken into consideration while assessing the athletes' incomes. First, the proceeds from contracts signed by team sports athletes, and prize money earned by individual athletes. Second, proceeds from advertisement contracts. Bonuses, prizes, and tax payments were not considered during the assessment of the sports incomes. Incomes from investments in property, shares etc. were not considered either.

Maria SharapovaAnnual income from ad contracts was defined as a contract's total amount divided by the number of years during which a contract is valid. The figures concerning an athlete's income are an expert assessment commissioned by Finans magazine and may not agree with the official data.  

Russia's five richest athletes:

1. Maria Sharapova: – 18 years old, a tennis player, $14.5 million.

The marketing of the Maria Sharapova brand has been picking up year in and year out. Sharp management of her sports agency plus all kinds of entrepreneurs and fans contribute to the commercial success. Her fans, for example, launched a new ring based on a compilation of Masha's trademark screams and moans normally produced by her while playing a tennis match. A Japanese company manufactured pillows resembling the player's breasts and legs.

Andrei Kirilenko2. Andrei Kirilenko: 24 years old, a basketball player, $10.97 million

Kirilenko was drafted as No.24 by the NBA club Utah Jazz in the summer of 1999. He has been playing for the American team since the season 2001/2002. Last year the Russian basketball player No.1 signed a 6-year contract worth $86.4 million. Kirilenko's main hobby is computer games. He says he can play them for hours in a row. Last year he founded a charitable fund Kirilenko's Kids. Some malevolent people suspected the guy was just trying to dodge his taxes. However, Kirilenko says he makes enough money to help the children.

Alexei Yashin3. Alexei Yashin:, 32 years, a hockey player, $7.6 million

Yashin is one the best Russian hockey players who never said “no” to the national team. He played for Ottawa Senators for seven seasons though a dispute between the club's owner and Yashin marred the first stage of the player's career in the NHL. A year later he moved to the New York Islanders and signed a very attractive 10-year contract for $87.5. Following the post-lockout changes in the NHL, Yashin lost a quarter of his contract's original value.

Nikolai Khabibulin4. Nikolai Khabibulin: 32 years, a hockey player, $6.75 million

Habibulin is the first Russian who became a regular goaltender in the NHL club. After playing for Phoenix Coyotes  for 5 years, Khabibulin, a.k.a. Bulin Wall, went on strike over his salary. He missed a season, was swapped to join Tampa which won the Stanley Cup in 2004. These days he plays for the Chicago Bulls under the 4-year contract worth $27 million.

Ilya Kovalchuk5. Ilya Kovalchuk: 22 years old, a hockey player, $6.5 million

Kovalchuk, one of the most gifted Russian hockey players, was a No.1 draft pick by Atlanta in 2001. His last season in the “star-studded” Ak Bars did not work out well. After negotiating a new contract with the U.S. club throughout the summer and fall, Kovalchuk signed a 5-year deal for $32 million.

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Author`s name Olga Savka