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The highest paid athlete ever

A record $132 million deal for a European soccer player over the weekend begs the question: Which sports star earned the biggest wages of all time? Clue: not Alex Rodriguez.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor on
bale-renaldo-alejandro-ramos-wiki.jpg
Gareth Bale (r) and Cristiano Ronaldo, well-compensated soccer stars who now play for the same team - Real Madrid - can only dream of the money that Gaius Appuleius Diocles earned.

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The international sports world was abuzz over the weekend with news of the largest "transfer fee" ever in soccer, as the Spanish team Real Madrid paid $132 million to London's Tottenham Hotspur for a 24-year-old player named Gareth Bale.

News like this reaffirms that professional sports is, among other things, a business. It begs the question: Which athlete received the highest salary ever?

You might be thinking "New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez," known these days as much for his use of performance enhancing drugs as for his playing baseball.

Not a bad guess, given Rodriguez' current $27.5 million a year salary (10 years, $275 million).

But if only poor Rodriguez and Bale had gone into chariot racing. Then they could really have raked it in. According to Discovery News, the biggest wage earner in history was not a name you hear the loudmouths blaring regularly from the ESPN studios.

No, it was none other than Gaius Appuleius Diocles, a champion charioteer who over the course of his Roman career raced to the equivalent of $15 billion in prize money. Not bad for an illiterate guy.

The Discovery article ran exactly three years ago today. Gaius' top position will probably last forever, unless things get even crazier than they already are on the contemporary sports scene.

Photo is from Alejandro Ramos via Wikimedia

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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