Soccer phenom Lionel Messi is poised to dribble his way into the history books once again, this time off the pitch. A collection of six match-worn jerseys from Messi’s triumphant 2022 World Cup run with Argentina’s national team is headed to the auction block next week, with bidding expected to eclipse $10 million.
If the jersey set fetches that lofty price, it would surpass the $10.1 million sale last year of a Michael Jordan jersey from the 1998 NBA Finals to become the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia ever auctioned.
The auction house Sotheby’s will host the online sale of Messi’s jerseys from November 30 to December 14. Leading up to the auction, the shirts will be publicly exhibited at Sotheby’s New York galleries.
“The sale of these six shirts stands as a monumental occasion in auction history, offering fans and collectors a connection to Messi’s crowning achievement,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles.
Journey to Immortality
The six jerseys chart Messi’s journey throughout last year’s World Cup in Qatar, where the Argentine captain finally claimed the one major trophy that had eluded him.
The first shirt comes from Argentina’s opening World Cup match against Saudi Arabia on November 22, 2022. Though presumed favorites, Argentina suffered a shocking 2-1 upset that day on Messi’s 35th birthday.
The remaining shirts were worn in Argentina’s subsequent World Cup games – a redemptive 2-0 win over Mexico, consolation matches against Poland and Australia, an epic quarterfinal shootout triumph over the Netherlands, and the dramatic final versus France decided by penalties.
Messi scored seven goals in the tournament and provided three assists, garnering both the Golden Ball as the best player and Golden Boot as the top scorer. His teary-eyed kiss of the World Cup trophy completed Messi’s ascension to legendary status in his homeland after years of heartbreak.
New Bidding War Looming?
The $10 million pre-sale estimate for Messi’s World Cup jersey collection would shatter the previous soccer memorabilia record of $9.3 million, paid last year for fellow Argentine icon Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” shirt from the 1986 World Cup.
But some sports auction experts believe the Messi shirts could ultimately sell for even more amid a booming market. Last year’s $10.1 million sale of Jordan’s “Last Dance” jersey similarly blew past the initial bidding range.
“There are serious Lionel Messi fans worldwide who I believe will pay whatever it takes to have a jersey from that iconic day when Messi won the World Cup,” said memorabilia appraiser Kenneth Goldin. “Throw Sotheby’s marketing machine behind this auction, and all bets are off.”
The Messi jersey sale coincides with greater mainstream interest in sports collectibles among younger buyers. Sotheby’s said nearly 60 percent of bidders in recent auctions have been under 40 years old.
Messi Mania Continues
The launch of the Sotheby’s auction comes on the heels of Messi making his own record-smashing debut in Major League Soccer. Since signing with Inter Miami CF in March, Messi’s two home appearances have already resulted in the highest and second-highest attended games in MLS history.
Demand for Messi merchandise has skyrocketed globally as well since Argentina’s World Cup conquest. Within a week, Adidas sold out of all Messi-related products in its flagship online store.
Moving forward, sponsors and clubs alike are expected to capitalize on Messi’s enhanced popularity with massive marketing campaigns and licensing agreements. Some analysts project Messi could soon become football’s first $1 billion athlete.
Of course, no dollar value can be attached to what those magical World Cup jerseys mean to Messi himself. Speaking this week at his new club’s stadium opening, an emotional Messi said his improbable journey to hoisting that long-coveted trophy in Qatar made all his sacrifices over the years worthwhile.
One thing is certain: whoever ends up with this unparalleled World Cup collection will own a tangible piece of soccer history. For Messi’s millions of fans, his jerseys are priceless mementos of the day their GOAT (greatest of all time) completed his destiny.