Lionel Messi | World Cup Champion
Online Auction: 30 November–14 December 2023 • 12:00 PM EST • New York

Lionel Messi | World Cup Champion 30 November–14 December 2023 • 12:00 PM EST • New York
“I dreamed of it so many times, I wanted it so much that I still can’t believe it.”

When Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup in Qatar last December in front of over 1.5 billion people tuning in from around the world, the moment seemed fit for the coronation of a football deity. It was on the pitch in Lusail Stadium 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. Pundits quipped that Messi had “completed football” on that warm December night in Doha, as the most decorated football player in history could finally add the triumph that had eluded him for the better part of two decades to his unrivaled résumé.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup 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, 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), and two Golden Ball awards for being the best player at both the 2014 and 2022 World Cup.

Sotheby’s is pleased to present a set of six of Lionel Messi’s match-worn Argentina shirts, in the iconic white and sky blue, from his historic 2022 FIFA World Cup run.

History In The Balance

Argentina’s start to the 2022 FIFA World Cup didn’t go as planned. After arriving in Qatar as one of the favorites to win the tournament on a 36-game unbeaten streak, La Albiceleste suffered a shock defeat in their first Group Stage match to Saudi Arabia, losing 2-1. The pressure extended into their next match, a must-win game against Mexico stuck at 0-0 through the first hour of play until Messi produced a moment of brilliance like he has so many times before in his long and storied career to score a goal that would release the valve for both his team and his country and see them cruise to a 2-0 win. Followed by another 2-0 performance against Poland in their final Group Stage match, Argentina advanced to the knockout stages of the tournament for a Round of 16 matchup with Australia, a fixture that marked Messi’s 1,000th appearance for club and country and 100th appearance as captain of Argentina.

Messi’s Crowning Moment

Through the first 78 minutes of the Final, Lionel Messi looked destined to fulfill his greatest dream and finally lift the World Cup. He had already opened the scoring with a first half penalty kick and helped set-up another — a stunning team goal finished by longtime teammate Ángel Di María — and Argentina had complete control over the game. Then, an Argentina foul in the French penalty area kicked off a 90-second sequence that would see the defending champions (who had knocked Argentina out of the 2018 World Cup in the Round of 16) come roaring back to life with consecutive goals to draw the game level at 2-2. The remainder of regular time, 30 minutes of extra time, and ensuing penalty shootout can only be described as the single greatest hour in football history and perhaps, given the generational significance, one of the most thrilling matches in all of sports history. What had started to feel like a forgone conclusion for Lionel Messi, the 35-year-old Argentine captain who had won everything but the trophy that loomed large just beyond the touchline, felt agonizingly fragile. The history that hung in the balance of that final hour of beautiful chaos was dizzying. The stakes were staggeringly high, and for that one hour, 1.5 billion people around the world held their breath.

The great drama of those closing chapters of Messi’s 2022 World Cup run will be talked about for generations. The swings in momentum, the chances created — it was both nauseating and euphoric in the way that only the biggest stages in sport can deliver. With the match tied at 2-2 entering extra time, the 108th minute saw a Hugo Lloris save bounce back to Messi, who punched the ball into the back of the net to score his second goal of the match and seventh of the tournament, putting Argentina up 3-2 and again on the brink with just twelve minutes to play. But an Argentina mistake in the box meant another penalty for France, and just like that it was tied again at 3-3. Extra time would end with the greatest save from a goalkeeper in the history of the sport, as Dibu Martínez kept Messi’s dream alive with just 30 seconds left on the clock with a split save off of a breakaway shot on goal from Les Bleus. Players and fans alike often scoff at penalties, but as the final whistle blew at the end of extra time, it felt like a rare occasion where the format was oddly fair, if not just.

Lionel Messi scored his penalty, Dibu Martinez would save one, France’s Aurélien Tchouaméni would slot his shot wide left, and Gonzalo Montiel would step up to the spot and crown Argentina world champions as Messi fell to his knees in what one can only imagine was an almost debilitating expression of relief and ecstasy. Finally, after the greatest World Cup Final of all time — a game that forced even the most casual of fans to lean in and bear witness — Lionel Messi had his crowning moment. 

As Messi walked onto the stage to greet the World Cup trophy for the first time, British sports commentator Peter Drury captured the significance of the moment for television audiences around the world that seemed impossible to put into words:

“36 years since Maradona and Mexico. Here, finally, is the nation’s new throne of immortals… Lionel Messi has conquered his final peak. Lionel Messi has shaken hands with Paradise. The little boy from Rosario, Sante Fé has just pitched up in heaven. He climbs into a galaxy of his own. He has his crowning moment… And maybe today there will, of course, always be those who argue, always be those who debate. And the debate could rage on if you like. But as he falls in love with the object in the world that his heart most desired, it is hard to escape the supposition that he has rendered himself today the greatest of all time.”

A Legacy Preserved

This collection of six match-worn shirts represents the seminal moment in the career of Lionel Messi and the cementing of his legacy as the greatest of all time. In the years and decades to come, this collection will serve as a reminder of what makes Messi, Messi: the ability to deliver on the biggest stage when the entire world stopped to see if he could.

Worn through the first half of each respective match and collected by Lionel Messi’s match-worn memorabilia partner, AC Momento, these shirts have been photomatched by Sports Investors Authentication.

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