At this point, there is no point in arguing. Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player who ever lived. No other player has the unique combination of achievements that he brings to the table. Almost 800 goals, including the most ever for a single team (672 for Barcelona F.C.), and was the top scorer in Europe six times. A world record seven Ballon d'Or awards (kind of like the global soccer MVP). The all-time leading scorer for the Argentina national team and, as of 2022, a World Cup winner. And he is still plugging away at PSG, and more achievements are within reach.
From a collector's point of view, Messi came into his own as the soccer card industry matured. When he started, there were few options for collecting cards of the "Beautiful Game." But as he blossomed into the GOAT, the industry grew with him. Today, there is a wide array of Lionel Messi cards. They span the gamut from the cheapest and tackiest options to the sublime high-end varieties. The possibilities for the Messi collector may seem bafflingly broad. Or, to put it differently, at 5" 7, Messi may be diminutive, but his hobby presence is massive.
But like anything else in life, we have to be selective. Few of us can afford all the Messi cards; most are mediocre anyway. But every card on this list is an absolute gem. So, naturally, we will include the most valuable and most expensive Lionel Messi cards in this list. But our focus is on the best investments with the most aesthetic appeal and just the plain coolest.
2022 Panini Instant Lionel Messi Waving World Cup Auto 1/1 #118
The Panini Instant and Topps Now cards aren't usually precious. The concept behind them is simple. The card company issues a limited edition card commemorating an event, and collectors must order them within 24 hours. But this one is special. It celebrates the epic moment when Messi confirmed his place as the GOAT. And if you can get an auto 1/1 version, you have won the soccer card jackpot. It isn't clear how much this will go for, but the card is currently listed on eBay at $425,000. Of course, it will go for far less. But maybe someday, the 2022 Panini Instant Lionel Messi Waving World Cup Auto 1/1 #118 will be worth that.
2016 Leaf Pele Immortal Collection Multi-Signed Autographs Pele/Messi/Ronaldo
This card has some of the biggest legends in the history of the sport on one card. Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and our boy Messi feature on it. But with all due respect to them, the star here is Pele, the namesake of this release. Pele is the all-time great dethroned by Messi. The connection between them has become mystical. You see, Pele was very ill during the 2022 World Cup, and the fans were performing vigils for him. Not long after Argentina won, the Brazilian passed away. But he watched the final and saw the torch be passed. The 2016 Leaf Pele Immortal Collection Multi-Signed Autographs Pele/Messi card is a testament to the drama.
2021-22 Topps Inception UEFA Champions League Logo Patch Auto 1/1 Lionel Messi
Messi has many beautiful cards, and you can see many of them in this list. But the 2021-22 Topps Inception UEFA Champions League Logo Patch Auto 1/1 may be the most stunning of them all. Patch autos with team logos are always quite spectacular. But let's face it; the Barcelona F.C. emblem is as beautiful as it gets (sorry, Real Madrid fans). And the gold offsets it in such a glamorous manner. Inception is generally some of the most beautiful Topps cards, so it's no surprise. This is a fitting final card for Messi's glorious Barca era.
2004-05 Mundi Cromo Sport Las Fichas de la Liga #617 Lionel Messi
A PSA 10 sold for $2,399
Though nowhere near as famous or valuable as the Panini Mega Cracks version, the 2004-05 Mundi Cromo Sport Las Fichas de la Liga is Messi's earliest rookie card. People prefer the Mega Cracks mostly because they want a Panini card. But for those of us who appreciate an excellent esoteric Euro edition, this is the one to get. As a bonus, it is way more affordable too. The best thing about the design is the wavy Barcelona F.C. scarf on the left-hand side. And you get a similar picture to the more famous rookie but from a different angle.
2006 Panini World Cup Sticker #47 Lionel Messi
A PSA 10 sold for $4,705
Cards are a relatively new phenomenon in the soccer world. But kids worldwide have been collecting Panini World Cup stickers since the inaugural version came out in 1970. And the sticker is still considered the real thing by purist fans of the beautiful game. So, this is the absolute World Cup rookie for most soccer collectors. And like most Panini stickers, this one has the obligatory super awkward photo. This one displays the iconic Messi mullet in all its redneck glory. The card is unique because it features the legend's rarely-uttered middle name.
2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Lionel Messi #1 Gold Lazer
A PSA 10 sold for $6,000.
Every failed attempt at winning the Jules Rimet trophy plays its part in the Messi legend. And in 2014, he came closest. Though the 2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Lionel Messi #1 Gold Lazer isn't a fancy auto, it is a rare parallel. And the very cool laser tag concept really works in accentuating Messi. The player has already outgrown his awful mullet and features the close-cut and elegant beard of his latter years.
2006 Panini FIFA World Cup Germany #47 Lionel Messi
A PSA 10 sold for $6,700
Until 2022, the Messi World Cup story was one of near misses and enduring disappointment. 2006 was the forward's first foray onto the big stage. It ended with a penalty shootout defeat to Germany. It wouldn't be the last time Messi underachieved at the World Cup. But because the story arc is now positive, the card feels like a superhero origin story. The design could be better, but these pictures of Messi with the ball at his feet always seem to work. And the great thing about these World Cup cards is that there is always a market for them.
2021-22 Topps Chrome UEFA Champions League Auto Orange Refractor /25
A PSA 10 sold for $7,000
If you like the Topps/Bowman refractor aesthetic, there aren't too many choices among the Messi cards. However, the 2021-22 Topps Chrome UEFA Champions League Auto Orange Refractor /25 gives you a great option. It is easily one of the most worthwhile investments among his PSG cards. Of course, there are more expensive versions, like the Gold Refractor. But the Orange looks better and has a more classic Bowman Refractor feel.
2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Signatures Lionel Messi #S-LME Autograph
A PSA 10 sold for $12,600
It took a while until Messi autos started to be included in soccer packs. So, this is one of the earlier (though not the first) specimens. But this is the first World Cup auto; even better, it's a Prizm. So, this is one of the best of his autographed cards on the market. Unfortunately, the design is uninspiring, and Lionel looks like he has mild indigestion. And there is another downside. This is an on-sticker auto, which is a turnoff for most collectors. So, what is a turn-on for us? Long walks on the beach, usually.
2018 Panini National Treasures Lionel Messi Autographs
The 2018 Panini National Treasures Lionel Messi Autographs is a /10, and therefore a beautiful rarity for his collectors. The patches on this one all feature beautiful sections of the trademark Argentina national team uniform of 'The White and Sky Blue.' The National Treasures cards are made from outstanding stock, and Messi put a lot of effort into this gorgeous signature. If I win the lottery, I'm getting this one.
2018 Panini Kaboom! #LMS Gold Lionel Messi
A PSA 10 sold for $33,600
The Kaboom! insert is, without a doubt, the most popular one in the entire hobby. And while the best-known ones are usually for American athletes, the Messi varieties are also worth a good bit. This gold variety is particularly valuable, at least partially because of the flawless design. The gold background accentuates the masterful artistic representation of the Barcelona F.C. forward exercising his staggering first touch. And the cartoonish lettering works particularly well on this gem. While we like this one, all of his Kaboom! cards are worthwhile.
2016 Panini Flawless Lionel Messi Autographs Sole Of The Game
A PSA 10 sold for $50,000.
In 2016, the high-end Panini cards we know and love were in their infancy. And the 2016 Panini Flawless Lionel Messi Autographs Sole Of The Game is one of his first and best in this genre. It contains a game-worn piece of the genius's boot. Therefore, you are getting a part of the magic here. And the image of Lionel in his trademark Barca kit is one of the best among his cards. There are other awesome 2016 Panini Flawless Lionel Messi autographs, but this one is the cream of the crop.
2022 Panini World Cup Prizm Lionel Messi Nebula Choice 1/1
A PSA 10 sold for $97,201
The Messi 2022 World Cup cards are not precisely rookie cards. Far from it. But they will have a special place in our collections, as they represent Messi's World Cup triumph. And the 2022 Panini World Cup Prizm Lionel Messi Nebula Choice 1/1 is a wonderful way to celebrate this triumph over adversity. Of course, these sorts of space-inspired designs don't always work. They can be pretty cliched and tired. But this one knocks it out of the park and reminds us that Messi's skills are indeed out of this world.
2004-05 Panini Mega Cracks Lionel Messi #71
A PSA 10 sold for $304,770
You can try to be creative and bring in deep cuts. But there is no getting around including the 2004-05 Panini Mega Cracks Lionel Messi #71. It has become the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps of soccer cards. While it isn't the only Lionel Messi rookie card on the market, it has emerged as the definitive one for several reasons. It's his first Panini card, and people prefer the big company cards. And luckily for collectors of the Argentine wonder, it is also a beautiful card. The silly mullet Messi wore at the time reminds us all of that lovably awkward kid we fell in love with. And the action shot captures the slant of his capable legs right as they unleash an unparalleled level of magic. Think goodness; the card is so attractive. Because I would hate to spend $300,000 on some eyesore.
2014 Panini World Cup Prizm Lionel Messi #12 Gold
A PSA 10 sold for $522,000.
Thought the Mega Cracks rookie would be the most expensive Messi card of all. Think again. The 2014 Panini World Cup Prizm Lionel Messi #12 Gold beats it out due to pure scarcity. There is only one, and it is a PSA 10. So, the card is a record breaker. But, of course, the 2014 World Cup was a crucial moment in the Argentine's tale of woe and eventual redemption. Messi steered his country all the way to the final, where they lost to Germany once again. And, of course, the sweetness of Messi's 2022 triumph means very little without the pain and woe that precedes it.
Final Word On The 15 Lionel Messi Cards From Rookie to World Champion
Messi has had the most tremendous career of any player in the sport. There are two reasons for that. First, the player achieved more than anyone else. Second, his years of World Cup disappointment created an arc that culminated in glorious triumph. Our beautiful selection of cards is a fitting testament to this icon.