A set of six jerseys worn by Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has sold for an eye-popping amount but has stopped short of becoming the most expensive sports memorabilia auction in history.
The online auction, conducted by renowned luxury auction house Sotheby’s closed on Thursday, December 14, with the final bid reaching $7,803,000 US. That amount falls short of both Sotheby’s initial estimate of $10 million US and the world record for the most expensive sports memorabilia ever auctioned off. That distinction still belongs to a jersey worn by Michael Jordan in Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals, which Sotheby’s sold for $10.1 million US in September 2022.
By Thursday morning, only three bids had been placed in the auction, and the price sat at $6.5 million US. But like with the auction of fellow Argentinian hero Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey in May 2022 — which finished at $8.93 million US — the bidding heated in the minutes before the auction closed at 12:01 p.m. ET, finally landing just north of $7.8 million US.
According to the Associated Press, a portion of the auction proceeds will go toward the UNICAS Project, an organization led by Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children’s Hospital and supported by the Leo Messi Foundation that meets the needs of children suffering from rare diseases.
The auction included jerseys that Messi wore during six of Argentina’s seven matches at the World Cup in Qatar, including the final against France on December 18. All are inscribed on the chest with each match’s opponent, date and stadium. The only jersey missing from the set was from Argentina’s third group stage match against Poland.
The shirts auctioned off were from the first halves of Argentina’s matches in Qatar; Messi’s second-half shirts were usually swapped with players from the opposing teams. All the shirts were extensively photomatched to verify their authenticity.
The shirts were on display at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York during the auction.