Jon Rahm becomes world's highest paid sportsman after joining Saudi-backed LIV golf league in £450m deal

8 December 2023, 09:31

Jon Rahm becomes world's highest paid sportsman after joining Saudi-backed LIV golf
Jon Rahm becomes world's highest paid sportsman after joining Saudi-backed LIV golf. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Masters champion Jon Rahm has become the world's highest paid athlete after joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league in a deal understood to be worth up to £450m.

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The 29-year-old Spaniard, ranked number three in the world, had previously insisted that he would not switch from the PGA Tour but has now gone back on his declaration of "fealty".

LIV announced the news of the world No 3's defection by posting a word search with his name - spelt incorrectly as 'John' on the fourth and fifth row - on X, formerly known as Twitter, late Thursday night.

Jon Rahm will earn more than stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after joining LIV golf
Jon Rahm will earn more than stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after joining LIV golf. Picture: Alamy

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It had been widely expected for several weeks despite repeated claims from the 29-year-old Spaniard in the past year that he could not be bought.

He said: "Every decision I feel like we make in life there will be somebody who agrees and likes it and somebody who doesn't, right.

"I made this decision because I believe it's the best for me and my family and everybody I've been able to talk to has been really supportive of me, so I'm very comfortable with my decision.

"I'm no stranger to hearing some negative things on social media or in media. It's part of what it is, we're public figures but you just learn to deal with it right? This certainly won't define who I am or change who I am."

His departure is a coup for LIV golf and huge hit for the PGA Tour.

The Spaniard played a leading role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory in Rome this year - but joining LIV places his future in the contest in serious jeopardy as he needs to remain a DP World Tour member to be eligible.

Previously, Rahm expressed his "fealty" to the PGA Tour in February 2022 and, in September that year, rubbished rumours that he would jump ship in reply to a post on Twitter which claimed he was about to sign for LIV.

He had stated "my heart is with the PGA Tour", but later admitted players felt a sense of "betrayal" at the secret deal which was negotiated between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which bankrolls LIV Golf.

However, after signing on with LIV, the Spaniard said: "Obviously the past two years there's been a lot of evolving on the game of golf, things have changed a lot and so have I."

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