It Could Be the Priciest Sports Memorabilia Collection Ever Sold

Sotheby's to auction 6 shirts worn by Lionel Messi in winning World Cup run
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2023 3:12 PM CST
It Could Be the Priciest Sports Memorabilia Collection Ever Sold
A mural depicting soccer legend Lionel Messi, by artist Martin Ron, adorns a building on the 9 de Julio avenue in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.   (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

Sotheby's is to auction six shirts worn by Lionel Messi during Argentina's winning run at last year's soccer World Cup in Qatar and thinks they could become the most valuable collection of sports memorabilia ever sold at potentially more than $10 million. The auction house said Monday that it will put up for sale in New York six of the seven first-half shirts the Argentina captain wore in Qatar, including the one he donned in the dramatic win in the final against France, per the AP. Argentina won its third World Cup in a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw at the Lusail Stadium, in which Messi had scored two goals. Sotheby's will offer Messi's shirts between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. The shirts will be on view at its New York headquarters in a free, public exhibition during the bidding dates.

Sotheby's is working with US-based tech startup AC Momento, which partners with high-profile athletes to help manage their match-worn memorabilia. The current record for a game-worn item of sports memorabilia is Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million at Sotheby's in New York in Sept. 2022. The current record for a game-worn item of soccer memorabilia is a shirt Diego Maradona wore in Argentina's infamous 1986 quarterfinal 2-1 victory over England, where he infamously scored one goal with his hand, a goal he said owed much to the "Hand of God." That sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby's in London in May 2022. Winning, and lifting, the World Cup last year meant Messi emulated the feat of Maradona in 1986, the previous time Argentina won the trophy.

A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to UNICAS Project, led by Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital with the support of the Leo Messi Foundation, to meet the needs of children suffering from rare diseases. The 36-year-old Messi, who currently plays for Inter Miami in the MLS, spent 17 years at Barcelona, winning Spain's league on numerous occasions and the European Champions League on four occasions. He has won the Ballon d'Or, which is presented annually to the game's top player, a record eight times. But it was with his belated triumph in Qatar that cemented his place among the all-time greats Pele and Maradona. That's why his shirts are potentially so valuable. (More Lionel Messi stories.)

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