NEW YORK, 20 November 2023 – One year ago today the world turned its attention to Qatar for the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. On football’s biggest stage, the spotlight was fixated on Lionel Messi, who despite an unparalleled career adorned with countless titles and individual achievements was still chasing his first World Cup triumph in his fifth appearance at the tournament. For one month, over 5 billion people tuned in to see if the Argentine captain would cement his legacy as the greatest of all time and deliver his country their first World Cup title in 36 years. Finally, on 18 December 2022, after what is widely considered the greatest football match of all-time, Lionel Messi and Argentina prevailed over the defending champions (France) and lifted the World Cup at Lusail Stadium in Doha.
A year following Messi’s crowning achievement, Sotheby’s will present a set of six of Lionel Messi’s match-worn Argentina shirts from his historic run in Qatar. Worn by the Argentine captain during the first half of the Final, Semi-final, Quarter-final, Round of 16, and two of the three Group Stage matches, the set of six white and sky blue Argentina home shirts will be offered in a dedicated sale open for bidding from 30 November – 14 December. The extraordinary collection is estimated in excess of $10 million, with the sale poised to become the most valuable collection of sports memorabilia at auction.
The shirts are being brought to auction by US-based tech startup AC Momento, who in addition to their mobile app for sports fans, partners with high-profile athletes (like Messi) to help manage their match-worn memorabilia collections. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to UNICAS Project, led by Sant Joan de Déu (SJD) Barcelona Children’s Hospital with the support of Leo Messi Foundation, to meet the needs of children suffering from rare diseases. This follows the work the Leo Messi Foundation has completed with the SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Center which treats 400 children with cancer each year. The set of shirts will be on view at Sotheby’s New York in a free, public exhibition open from 30 November – 14 December.
Lionel Messi Claims His Crown
Argentina’s start to the 2022 FIFA World Cup did not go as planned. After arriving in Qatar as one of the favorites to win the tournament on a 36-game unbeaten streak, they lost 2-1 in their first Group Stage match to Saudi Arabia. In their next match against Mexico, Lionel Messi broke a 0-0 tie late in the second half to put Argentina in the lead, and ultimately go on to win 2-0. Following another 2-0 win against Poland in their last Group Stage match, Argentina would advance to the knockout round of the tournament and beat Australia in the Round of 16 (in Messi’s 1,000th appearance for club and country), the Netherlands in the Quarter-final, and Croatia in the Semi-final, with Messi scoring in each of the those matches.
Argentina would meet France in the Final, who four years prior had knocked them out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia before ultimately winning the title. What transpired across the ninety minutes of regular time, extra time, and penalty kicks in this rematch of titans is described by many pundits and fans alike as the greatest football match in history. Until the 78th minute, Argentina seemed destined to win, with goals from Messi and Ángel di María in the first half giving them a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead. However, Kylian Mbappé and France scored two quick goals to equalize and send the game to extra time, which saw both Messi and Mbappé both score again to bring the game to 3-3 and send it into penalty kicks. Messi opened the penalties for Argentina by converting his kick from the spot before the match was ultimately decided by his teammate Gonzalo Montiel who scored the decisive penalty win the tournament for Argentina and ignite celebrations around the world as Messi dropped to his knees in ecstasy. It was on the pitch at Lusail Stadium in Doha on 18 December 2022 that Lionel Messi reached his final peak, forever etching his name atop the annals of football history as the greatest of all time.
As Messi recalled after the tournament: “I dreamed of it so many times, I wanted it so much that I still can’t believe it.”
The triumph that had eluded him for the better part of two decades was the final piece in the trophy cabinet of the most decorated football player in history. Messi’s World Cup trophy adds to his dozens of other trophies and individual awards which include four Champions League and ten LaLiga titles with Barcelona, Copa América and Finalissima trophies with Argentina, and a record 8 Ballon d’Or awards , the most recent of which he won last month in large part due to his performance in Qatar, which also won him his second Golden Ball award of his career for being the best player at the tournament.
Sotheby’s Dynamic Role in the Sports Memorabilia Market
The momentous sale comes at a time when Sotheby’s is at the helm of the vigorous market for sports memorabilia and collectibles, fueled by the property and unique experiences it offers. These sales have attracted a new generation of collectors to Sotheby’s, where more than 50% of bidders and buyers are entirely new to its sales, and half of all bidders are under the age of 40. In addition to setting multiple new benchmarks for game-worn sports memorabilia from legendary athletes such as Michael Jordan, Diego Maradona, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and more, Sotheby’s has recently been named The Official Game Worn Source of the NBA.