Football fans will soon have the chance to own a seminal piece of World Cup history. Sotheby’s is auctioning off a set of six shirts worn by superstar Lionel Messi at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, when Argentina defeated the defending champions France to take home the top prize, winning on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
The set of striped light-blue-and-white match-worn shirts—including one used in the final game on December 18 — could become the most valuable collection of sports memorabilia to hit the auction block; estimates for the set are in excess of US$10 million.
The current record is for Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals Jersey that sold for US$10.1 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2022.
Messi donned these shirts during the first halves of the group-stage rounds against Saudi Arabia and Mexico, as well as later games against Australia, the Netherlands and Croatia, and the final against France.
Argentina's winning run in Qatar last year was the final feather in the forward's cap, having failed to secure the championship in four previous World Cups.
The auction will be open for bidding from November 30 to December 14.
The current record for top-selling football memorabilia goes to the shirt worn by another legendary Argentine footballer, the late Diego Maradona, in his “Hand of God” game against England in 1986. It sold for US$9.3 million at Sotheby’s London in May 2022.
“The 2022 FIFA World Cup stands as one of the greatest events in sports history, intrinsically connected to Messi's valiant journey and firmly establishing his status as the greatest player of all time,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of modern collectibles, in a release tied to the announcement. “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.”
The company says its sports memorabilia auctions are attracting a new generation of buyers, with half of bidders under the age of 40. More than 50 percent are also new bidders.
Auction houses have increasingly taken note of sports memorabilia in recent years, considered a growing market.
The shirts are being brought to auction by US tech star-tup AC Momento, which helps athletes manage memorabilia collections. A portion of the proceeds go to the UNICAS project, with the support of the Leo Messi Foundation. The project with the Sant Joan de Déu (SJD) Barcelona Children’s Hospital supports the needs of children with rare diseases.
The auction will be accompanied by a free exhibition of the shirts at Sotheby’s in New York.