As we head into the 2022/23 season in Europe, what are the best soccer rookie cards to collect right now?
For the purposes of this list, we’re sticking with players that are still playing professionally as of the 2022/23 season. We’ve included a mix of established pros and talented youngsters, with something to suit almost every budget.
Here’s what you need to know about the best soccer cards to invest in this season.
The Top 10 Soccer Rookie Cards
We’ve staked a case for some of the most talented players in the sport. Remember, this is a World Cup year, and there’s likely to be lots of attention paid to the winter tournament in Qatar.
10. 2020 Topps Chrome UCL Ryan Gravenberch RC #CA-RG (eBay)
Having recently signed for Bayern Munich, Ryan Gravenberch looks set to win an endless stream of trophies for as long as he stays with the German giants.
We’re looking at the Gravenberch RC autograph found in 2020 Topps Chrome UCL. The midfielder is shown in a simple action shot, wearing his Ajax kit. The signed Topps Chrome RC is the most valuable Gravenberch card on the market judging by recent sales.
- Parallels: Blue #/150, Neon Green #/99, Blue Wave #/75, Gold #/50, Gold Bubbles, Orange #/25, Orange Bubbles, Red #/10, Red Wave #/5, SuperFractor 1/1
9. 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Lionel Messi RC #71 (eBay)
Lionel Messi has struggled for form at PSG, which could make for a decent buying opportunity in 2022/23.
The 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Messi RC is iconic. Take the action shot, which sees Messi with the ball seemingly glued to his foot. (He was still turning out for Barca B at the time, which is why he’s wrapped in a vintage kit.)
Then there’s the sheer value, as it’s the most expensive Messi card by some distance when looking at graded versions.
It’s my personal pick of the Messi RCs, and it’s also favoured by many collectors and investors.
8. 2002-03 Panini Stickers Cristiano Ronaldo RC #306 (eBay)
Cristiano Ronaldo has had a tough time of late. He’s reportedly been turned down by various sides, including the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atletico, and Roma. (Once again, this could make for a great opportunity to snag a copy of his RC while the hype has died down.)
The 2002-03 Panini Stickers set features an early Ronaldo release. It comes in the form of a traditional profile shot of the player, with a familiar determined expression etched on his face.
Ronaldo made his debut for Sporting CP at the age of 18, winning the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira.
As a sticker, there aren’t many copies available in the present, and even fewer will be able to earn a high grade from the likes of PSA or BGS. It’s not as popular as the Mega Craques seen below, but it’s still a viable Ronaldo RC that will sell for a large sum.
7. 2002-03 Panini Mega Craques Cristiano Ronaldo RC #137 (eBay)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first ever card comes from his time spent at Sporting Clube de Portugal.
The 2002-03 Panini Mega Craques features a large, full-bleed action shot of the player with the ball at his feet, which is fair considering he was best known for world class dribbling and fluid skills during his formative years.
It’s seen as Ronaldo’s ‘true’ rookie card, and that is reflected by the high asking prices for ungraded copies, as well as PSA 10s.
If you can only have one Ronaldo card and money is no object, this is a great choice.
It’s also worth mentioning just how young he looks in the image, as he had yet to transform into the athlete we all know today.
6. 2018-19 Donruss Optic Rated Rookie Vinicius Junior RC #177 (eBay)
Next up is Vinicius Jr. 2021/22 was undoubtedly a breakthrough season for the young forward, capped by a Champions League final win in which he scored the only goal. Vini Jr. RCs are now some of the more hyped collectibles in the hobby.
He’s also likely to feature heavily in the upcoming World Cup for Brazil.
2018-19 Donruss Soccer is a popular collection that makes good use of the Optic brand.
It was also the debut for soccer ‘Rated Rookie’ cards, such as this Vinicius RC that features an action shot of the player celebrating after finding the back of the net.
There are numbered Press Proof parallels to chase, as well as Optic parallels. When looking at Vinicius rookie cards, we’d opt for the latter, given the chrome finish and higher price tag.
- Press Proof Parallels: Green, Red, Silver, Die-Cuts #/100, Gold #/75, Canvas #/25, Gold Die-Cuts #/10, Blue #/5, Purple 1/1
- Optic Parallels: Holo, Green Velocity #/200, Aqua #/149, Purple Velocity #/125, Orange #/99, Red Velocity #/50, Black Velocity #/25, Gold #/10, Green #/5, Gold Vinyl 1/1
5. 2016 Panini Foot Soccer Corentin Jean/Kylian Mbappe RC #504/#505 (eBay)
Kylian Mbappe sensationally turned down Real Madrid, marking the forward as a potential PSG legend. Could he be a back-to-back World Cup winner?
The 2016 Panini Foot sticker set is one of the earliest to feature the striker, back when he had a double-barrelled surname and played for the Principality of Monaco.
Untorn stickers also feature Corentin Jean, who now plays as a striker for Ligue 1 club RC Lens.
They’re hard to come by, and even tougher to locate in pristine condition. There are just 189 PSA 10 copies according to the registry.
4. 2018-19 Panini Treble Premiere Vinicius Junior RC #177 (eBay)
A debut for the brand, 2018-19 Panini Treble Soccer was released in time to see Vinicius join Real Madrid. Treble offers “true rookie cards” via the 25-card Panini Premiere subset. (Hence the RC logo in the bottom left corner.)
Vinicius was included as one such rookie, with cards from the subset averaging at one per box. Micro-etched serial numbered parallels will sell for a serious sum of money, despite the lack of an autographed version.
- Parallels: Blue #/75, Purple #/49, Gold #/25, Green #/10, Platinum 1/1
3. 2018 Panini Prizm World Cup Soccer Kylian Mbappe RC #80 (eBay)
The 2018 Panini Prizm World Cup RC has to be seen as Kylian Mbappe’s best collectible card overall.
He became the second teenager after Pelé to score in a World Cup Final, and with four goals in the tournament he earned the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award.
(Soccer card collectors are always fond of cards from the biggest tournament in world football.)
As with every card from the base set, Prizm parallels are numerous, while there are also Cyrillic versions highlighting hosts Russia to keep an eye out for. (Although they might not be so popular now.)
- Prizm Parallels: Silver, Hyper, Lazer, Mojo, Red Mosaic, Black/Gold Wave, Green/Orange Wave, Red/Blue Wave, Blue #/199, Red #/149, Light Blue Lazer #/125, Purple #/99, Orange #/65, Pink Lazer #/40, Green Crystals #/25, Camo #/20, Gold Lazer #/15, Gold #/10, Pink #/8 (NSCC), Gold Power #/5, Blue Shimmer #/5 (FOTL), Black 1/1
- Variations: Cyrillic Text
2. Erling Haaland – 2019 Topps Finest UCL RC #91 (eBay)
Erling Haaland has switched to Manchester City in time for 2022/23, and fans around the world can’t wait to see him terrorise English defenders. Will he live up to the hype?
Haaland’s 2019 Topps Finest RC is next up. There are a couple of obvious tells if you’re aiming to understand why it’s so valuable compared to flashier options.
‘The Terminator’ is featured in a FC Salzburg kit rather than the black and yellow of Dortmund, and it lists his full name on the front. Refractor parallels are also immensely popular.
- Parallels: Blue #/150, Green #/99, Gold #/50, Orange #/25, Red #/5, SuperFractor 1/1
1. 2019 Topps Now Erling Haaland RC /178 #11 (eBay)
2019-20 Topps Now UEFA Champions League was a weekly release which featured noteworthy performances from the European Cup.
Haaland was included as one of the first cards in the set after hitting a hat-trick for RB Salzburg, while the card has an insane print run of just 178. As his true RC, there’s always going to be increased interest if you’re looking at graded copies.
As of 2022, it’s the most valuable Haaland card on the market by a wide margin.
Soccer Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide
A range of valuable soccer rookie cards have made the list, but what do we think of the current market at the start of the 2022/23 season?
For players like Ronaldo and Messi, you’re not going to be able to find cheap RCs. For more recent sets, we’d stick with serial numbered cards due to the sheer number of base sets being printed by companies like Topps and Panini.
The Best Soccer Rookie Card Investment
Haaland is a great shout if you think that he’ll hit the ground running with his new club in the Premier League. As GOAT contenders, the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are safer bets, while Mbappe is likely to keep scoring goals at a steady rate in a side he’s settled with. You’re spoiled for choice at the top end of the hobby when it comes to soccer rookie cards.
As always, pristine graded versions are the best that money can buy.
Soccer Rookie Cards: Final Thoughts
It makes sense to look at soccer rookie cards in a World Cup year, especially if you’re hoping to turn a profit during the tournament due to increased hype.
Prices are likely to go up as we get closer to the tournament, and the final itself. (The same is true for big games like the Champions League Final.)
For established stars, it’s expected that values will go up long-term. Younger players offer a higher risk/reward ratio, so it’s a good idea to mix things up in terms of the soccer cards you collect.