messi best rookies

The Best Lionel Messi Rookie Cards

Leo Messi's move to Inter Miami of the MLS brought renewed interest in the Soccer Legend. His rookie cards remain some of the best investments in the hobby.

Updated Sep 29, 2023

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Lionel Messi is often hailed as the contemporary GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) among soccer legends. Following a stellar career in the Premier League, Messi transitioned to the US, earning over $50 million a year with Inter Miami. His debut in American soccer has profoundly influenced the sport in the U.S.

Many new fans are now interested in soccer due to the lure of Messi's legend. And he hasn't disappointed with outstanding play in the last couple of weeks. Messi's rookie soccer cards have seen a significant increase in value of late due to his dominant play and impact in the US. Let's look at some of Lionel Messi's best rookie cards.

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#1 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Rookie #71 

megacracks-messi-71

This is the holy grail of Lionel Messi rookie cards. A PSA 9 graded copy recently sold for over $23K at auction. Only 48 copies of Messi's Mega Cracks rookie have earned a PSA 9 grade, with only 19 graded a perfect Gem-Mint PSA 10. 

This is Messi's most popular and most valuable rookie and Mega Cracks card. It has seen a considerable increase in value of about $2K to $4K within the last few months. 

This is all a result of Messi's arrival in the USA. A card like this will only trend higher from here. It is one of the most iconic rookie sports cards of the last 20 years.

#2 - 2004 Panini Stickers Colecciones Este Rookie

messi-panini-rookie-card

Soccer rookie sticker cards are amongst the most collectible in the soccer card hobby. Messi's Panini sticker rookie card is considered his second most popular among collectors.

The last sale of a Lionel Messi Panini sticker rookie in PSA 8 grade sold for $2,500 at an eBay auction. Only 44 have earned a PSA 8 grade, with just 51 graded higher.

Messi's sticker rookie is already becoming tougher to find, especially in high-grade examples, as investors seem to be gobbling this one up.

This one very possibly could see another surge in value in the coming years.

#3 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca Campeon (Spanish) Rookie #35

messi-campeon

The Lionel Messi Mega Cracks Barca Campeon rookie card is his third-best rookie card.

Note there are two different 2004 Panini Mega Cracks sets, one Spanish and a Catalan version. Messi has three different Mega Crack rookies in the sets: #35, #62, and #89. 

The most notable difference between the Panini Mega Cracks Spanish and Catalan versions is the text in the Barca logo in the top left corner of the card - "Campeon" for Spanish and "Campio" for the Catalan variation. 

This Messi - #35 is a nice straight closeup portrait of him which resonates with many collectors, and the bold blue and red colors make it a beautiful card. 

The #35 Campeon (Spanish) variation was worth around $700 in a PSA 8 grade before the recent surge in the value of his rookie cards. Today, the card has more than doubled, with an average selling price of around $1500.

PSA 8 graded copies are limited to only 148 and there are only 208 graded higher.

This one will be much more challenging for buyers to find at a good value as prices are expected to climb.

#4 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca Campio (Catalan) Rookie #35

messi-campio

This Catalan variation of the Messi Mega Cracks #35 rookie is similar to the Spanish/Campeon version, except "Campio" is written on the top front left of the card.

PSA 8 copies sell for around $1,000. Despite a fairly similar graded population at PSA, this version is worth a bit less than the Campeon version. 

#5 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca-Campio (Catalan) Rookie #62

campio-messi-62

This is one of the other Lionel Messi Mega Crack rookie cards, numbered #62 in the 2004 Panini Mega Cracks set. 

This version is labeled "Campio" in tiny fine print towards the top left front of the card, which indicates the Catalan version. 

The Campio sells for a small premius versus the Campeon rookie card, and fewer graded examples are available for sale.

The most recent sale of the Campio version was $1K for a BGS 9 graded copy, a great value considering a PSA  8 is valued at $700-$800 in the Campio version. 

A few of the Catalan/Campio graded versions in PSA 8 condition still pop up for sale but this one too is becoming more difficult to find with the impact of Messi playing now in the US.

#6 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca-Campeon Rookie #62

messi-campeon-62

Again the only difference between this Campeon version and the Campio is the labeling at the top left of the card. The Campeon version is valued around $800 in a PSA 8 graded example. 

Only 134 PSA 8 graded copies exist, with only 207 total graded higher. This one is a great alternative for any Messi investor to buy.

This card could easily double in value quickly especially with his grail rookie card being so sought after.

A tough card that is already becoming tougher to find so Lionel Messi collectors will want to get this one very soon! Both the Campio and Campeon are must haves for any Messi collector!

#7 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca-Campeon Facsimile Autograph Rookie #89

campeon-autografo

This one can always be misleading to new collectors or buyers. This card appears to be an autograph of Messi but is a facsimile copy, which means it's a printed signature and not live ink.

It even says 'Autografo' on the side of the card!

Again, look out for 'Campeon' in the Barca logo on the top left front corner of the card, which is the main tell versus the Campio aka Catalan version.

A PSA 8 of this card sells upwards of $600+, ungraded examples are selling for $300-380 depending on condition.

PSA 9 (Mint) copies are trending around $1k plus at recent eBay sales. This card is one of the more unique Messi rookie cards and is becoming more popular daily.

#8 - 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Barca-Campio Facsimile Autograph Rookie #89

campio-autgorago-messi

This Lionel Messi rookie card is very similar to the one listed above (Campeon), but the only difference is that Campio is stamped towards the top left corner of the card, not Campeon.

PSA 8 graded copies of this card are valued at $450 to $600. The Campio version has a PSA 8 Population Report of just 114 in existence and just 146 graded higher.

Both versions of this card are fairly similar in value and both are highly collectible and sought after.

# 9 - 2004 Mundi Cromo Liga Rookie #617

mundi-croma-messi-rc

One other good alternative Lionel Messi rookie is his Mundi Cromo Liga rookie card. 

PSA has graded about 1000 copies of the card, with PSA 8 (NM-MT) graded copies limited to only 348, with less than 300 graded higher. 

PSA 8 versions of the Mundi Cromo Messi rookie card were valued at around $700 before Messi's arrival in Miami but are now closer to $900 within the last couple of weeks at eBay auctions.

#10 - 2004 Mundi Cromo Top Liga Lionel MESSI/FRANCISCO LLOMPART/BORJA FERNANDEZ/DANIEL RODRIGUEZ FOIL Rookie #195

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This card features two players on the front, one being Messi. Note that two players are featured on the back of the card (see below).

195-messi-rc-back

The foil version has a lot more shine and looks like a holo card. Not many of these are available that are PSA graded. Surprisingly, however, the regular and the foil card have about the same graded population.

The last sale of a foil variation in a PSA 7 grade was under $300, whereas a non-foil version sold for just under that. Only about 175 copies of each card have been graded by PSA.

This one is still affordable for a lot of collectors or buyers, and I like the investment potential for this one, given the relative scarcity as compared to some more popular Lionel Messi rookie cards.

#11 - 2004 Mundi Cromo Top Liga MESSI/FRANCISCO LLOMPART/BORJA FERNANDEZ/DANIEL RODRIGUEZ Rookie #195

messi-two-layer-rc

This card is similar to the one above but has no holo effect and is just the base version. It is considered the least desirable Messi rookie card but is still valued at around $270 to $300 in a graded PSA 7 example.

One thing to watch is some sellers mention this card is a Holo or Foil version, but it's essential to make sure you know the difference between the foil and the base version.

If you're looking to target Messi cards, these soccer cards are regarded as the actual rookie card examples. The PSA Registry lists these cards as Messi's Master Collection, most of which are on Messi's Rookie set collection list. Many newer collectors or investors will start to take an interest in buying Messi soccer cards, especially with his significant impact dominating the MLS in the United States.

What Is The Most Valuable Messi Rookie Card?

megacracks-messi-71

Lionel Messi's most valuable rookie card is his 2014 Panini Mega Cracks #71 card. A perfect, gem-mint PSA 10 copy sold for $266K at auction in June 2023. This wasn't the highest sale on record, however, as a similar PSA 10 copy sold for $336K in 2021. Only 19 PSA 10 graded copies exist. 

What Is The Best Messi Rookie Card To Invest In?

While a PSA 10 Mega Cracks #71 Messi rookie is out of reach for almost all fans, lower graded copies are much more affordable. PSA 7 (Near Mint) copies, of which only 100 have been graded, sell for between $3K to $4K. Not a paltry sum, but an attractive investment.

PSA 10 copies of Messi's Panini Sticker rookie card sell for over $50K, but lower grade options look like a good choice for investment. A total of only 167 copies of the 2004 Panini Stickers Colecciones Este Messi rookie have been graded by PSA. PSA 6 copies can be found sometimes on eBay for under $1000.

Soccer stickers might get a bad rap, but I see this is a very good investment- snap these up. 

population-report (16)

There are no Lionel Messi rookie card autos released in packs in 2004, but if you can find any of his true rookie cards with an autograph, I'd consider that a wise purchase in this market.

Who Is Lionel Messi?

Lionel "Leo" Messi, born in the small town of Rosario, Santa Fe in Argentina, began his journey as a young boy with an intense passion for soccer. His prodigious talent was evident from an early age, and it wasn't long before FC Barcelona, one of the top football clubs in Catalonia, Spain, took notice.

Lionel_Messi_WC2022

Messi w Argentina, source Wiki Commons

In his first season with Barcelona's senior team, Messi showcased skills beyond his years, hinting at the dazzling career ahead. Over many years, Messi rose through the ranks, firmly establishing himself in Catalonia and on the global stage.

While Barcelona was the epicenter of Messi's club career, his performances for Argentina truly cemented his legendary status. While the World Cup long eluded Messi, redemption came in the Copa America, where Messi led Argentina to victory.

Throughout his career, comparisons with other soccer legends such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Pele have been invevitable. While Ronaldo's rivalry with Messi was born out of their simultaneous dominance in European club football, Pele's legacy as one of the greatest soccer players of a past generation offered a benchmark for Messi's achievements.

However, each player's unique qualities and contributions make it difficult to conclusively crown one as the ultimate greatest soccer player. Looking back, the difference Messi has made, not only to Barcelona but to soccer as a whole, is monumental. His winning mentality, combined with an uncanny ability to change the course of a game, has left an indelible mark on the sport.

As Messi enters the twilight of his playing career, a new stint in the MLS with Inter Miami has launched a new future for Messi. While his contract with Miami runs only through 2025, fans in the US are now able to witness one of the all-time greats in person. Whether he chooses to stay intimately involved in soccer or explore new horizons after 2025, one thing is sure: the legacy of Leo Messi will continue to inspire for generations to come.

Lionel Messi Cards For Sale on eBay

Vinnie Rullo

About the author

Vinnie Rullo is a passionate sports fan, with a hardcore loyalty to the Yankees, NY Giants and New York Knicks. An avid sports card collector, Vinnie has also worked a collectibles specialist for one of the bigger online auction houses.

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