On 18 December 2022 in Qatar, Lionel Messi, one of the greatest football players of all time, had "completed football" as he lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy for the first time after nearly 16 years of earnest attempts. With his seminal victory, he had secured his second Golden Ball award as best player of the tournament – and won the Ballon d'Or for a record-breaking eighth time.
Now for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a set of six Argentina jerseys worn by the 35-year-old captain during last year’s World Cup is open for bidding until 14 December at Sotheby's. These include the ones worn during the first halves of the Final, Semi-final, Quarter-final, Round of 16, and two of the Group Stage Matches.
Estimated to exceed US$10 million, this remarkable collection is set to be the most valuable sports memorabilia ever auctioned. A portion of the bid proceeds will be donated to the UNICAS Project for charitable purposes.
Set of 6 Lionel Messi 2022 FIFA World Cup Match Worn Shirts | Finals, Semifinals, Quarterfinals, Round of 16 & 2 Group Stage Matches
- Lionel Messi
- Obtained from the athlete by AC Momento
Estimate upon request (Expected to fetch in excess of US$10,000,000)
Note: A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to the UNICAS Project for charitable use
Auction House: Sotheby's New York
Sale Date: Until 14 December
Argentina has always been among the favourites for the World Cup, but since Maradona led the country to the title in 1986, the South American team has kept letting its supporters down. Stepping into 2022, as Messi turned 35 years old, everyone believed this was his last chance to compete for the ultimate honour in football.
In the first group-stage match, Argentina faced Saudi Arabia and gave itself the big surprise of an unexpected defeat. Argentina mounted multiple strong attacks in the first half of the match, despite three goals being ruled invalid due to offside. Messi netted a penalty and led the game 1-0. The situation, yet, completely changed in the early second half.
With exceptional counter-attacks, Saudi Arabia turned the result upside-down by scoring two goals in quick succession in the 48th and 53rd minutes, causing Argentina to make successive substitutions in response, but they still failed to break Saudi Arabia’s net again. Eventually, the blue-and-white team was defeated 1-2 and its 36-game unbeaten run came to an end.
Argentina and Saudi Arabia met in their first group match and the former unexpectedly had a bitter taste of defeat
Argentina’s loss at the first game upset its fans and provoked a flood of criticisms. Nonetheless, in the remaining two group-stage matches, Argentina won a 2-0 victory over Mexico and Poland respectively and secured the first place in the group.
By the knockout stage, Argentina's performance was still less than outstanding – It barely beat Australia 2:1 in the last 16 and defeated the Netherlands 4:3 on penalty kicks in the quarter-final after a regulation time draw.
In the semi-final, it was a face-off between the Messi-led Argentina and Modrić-led Croatia. In spite of a lower possession rate and fewer attempts at goal, the South American team stormed into the final with a 3-0 win by a goal from Messi, and two more from Julián Álvarez.
Argentina had a hard-fought match with the Netherlands in the quarter-final
The whole planet awaited the heatedly discussed World Cup final between Argentina and France. On the one hand, it is regarded as a legendary battle between the two talented football superstars from different generations – Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé.
On the other hand, Argentina vowed to lift the World Cup again after 36 years, while France was striving to become the second team to defend its World Cup title, with Brazil being the first. As days came by, both teams were getting ready for their absolute best for the extraordinary match.
On 18 December 2022, the greatest World Cup Final of all time kicked off with cheers from nearly 90,000 spectators at Lusail Stadium in Doha, and close to 1.5 billion football fans around the world watched the live broadcast.
The jersey worn by Messi in the first half of the World Cup final still bears traces of the fierce match
Argentina obviously had control of the game in the first half and held a comfortable 2-0 lead by Messi’s penalty and a tactical goal by Ángel Di María. The French, however, suddenly sparked into action in the second half. Mbappé scored two astonishing goals in lightning speed in the 80th and 81st minutes, making the game 2-2 and forcing it to go into extra time.
Messi put Argentina ahead again in the 108th minute but Mbappé finished his hat-trick in the 118th minute. In the closing stages of extra-time, France forward Randal Kolo Muani had a golden chance to make the defending champion’s dream come true, but his effort was blocked by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. This save was considered one of the most dramatic moments of the World Cup 2022.
In the penalty shootout, Argentina scored all of its attempts in the first four rounds, while France missed two: Martínez would save the one by Kingsley Coman, and Aurélien Tchouaméni would slot his shot wide left – And Messi is finally a World Cup champion. Celebrating with the trophy, the famous number 10 has accomplished the final piece of his incredible career.
Messi finally lifts the World Cup trophy, the one he has longed for
These precious jerseys worn by Messi are brought to auction by US tech start-up AC Momento, which develops a mobile app for sports games and partners with high-profile athletes like Messi to help manage their match-worn memorabilia.
A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to the UNICAS Project, led by Sant Joan de Deu (SJD) Barcelona Children's Hospital with the support of the Leo Messi Foundation, to provide medical services for children suffering from rare diseases.
The current world record for sports memorabilia is held by New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps baseball card, which sold for $12.6 million at Heritage Auctions last year. And the existing auction record for a game-worn item of sports memorabilia stands at US$10.09 million, set by Michael Jordan’s No.23 jersey worn during his final season with the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals, sold at Sotheby's New York in 2022.
As for the auction record for football memorabilia, it goes to Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey in the 1986 World Cup, which fetched £7.14 million at Sotheby's London early last year.
Auctioned in a set of six, Messi’s jerseys are difficult to compare with the above single-piece sports memorabilia in terms of auction price. Therefore, these blue-and-white striped shirts are poised to be the “most valuable collection of sports memorabilia in auction history”.
Michael Jordan’s No.23 jersey worn during his final season with the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals holds the auction record for a game-worn item of sports memorabilia
New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps baseball card holds the auction record for sports memorabilia