When I released the Saka rookie blog yesterday I had no idea a “What should be a rookie” debate was going to break out later in the day thanks to @WatchTheBreaks (Ivan is a great follow if you don’t already). I got numerous comments and DMs asking why the Bukayo Saka 2020 Immaculate was not a rookie. I want to first say that the blog was just my opinion on his rookie cards and stickers. I am by no means the hobby overlord who gets to decide what a rookie is or isn’t. I will use this blog to explain why I don’t think any of the big rookies from this set should be considered rookies despite Panini using the RC shield.

2020 Panini Immaculate Rookie Problems

Problem 1: Release Date
For those of you not familiar with the set – it is a high-end set that Panini announced November 13, 2020. The 2020-2021 season was already a few months old at that point. The set was eventually released January 7, 2021. It seems as though Panini realized the soccer card boom was happening and decided to throw this set together last minute to take advantage of the Haaland/Fati hype or just to capitalize on the market in general. The players they labeled with RC such as Haaland and Fati have other rookie cards from the 2019-2020 season, some of which were released in 2019. Doesn’t it seem weird that a player could have two different rookies released in non-consecutive years?

Problem 2: Set Format
The set is labeled as a 2020 release. If you collect soccer cards or know anything about soccer seasons you know that they span 2 years, for instance 2019-2020. The only way a set is usually released as a single calendar year is in the case of a major tournament such as the World Cup. If you collect NBA cards it is the same. Even if a set eventually is known as 2020 Prizm it is known that it spans the 2020-2021 season and the official name of the set is 2020-21 Panini Prizm Basketball. If they intended it to be a 2020-2021 product they knew they would not have been able to put the RC shield on the big rookies from 2019-2020. One of the clues we knew this was not just a 2019-2020 product were the teams some of the players represent. For instance Diogo Jota is in a Liverpool kit. He did not transfer to Liverpool until the 2020-2021 season. If you want an even more ridiculous example look no further than the Ferran Torres card with the RC shield in a Manchester City kit. He has a 2018-2019 Panini Megacracks card. Panini just had to have its cake and eat it too by combining two seasons into one where it was convenient.

Problem 3: Pop Reports
When I personally try to determine what a player’s rookie and sticker is I check the PSA Pop Report for the player. If the player is well known this should get you to where you need to be. If they are up and coming this is not as fool proof. In the cases of Haaland, Fati and Saka all of their pop reports start with 2019 cards and stickers. PSA and SGC properly label the set as 2020 Immaculate. I only bring this up because BGS improperly labels it as 2019/2020 Immaculate. If 10 years from now someone decides to start collecting soccer cards and they see one in a 2019 slab and another in a 2020 slab which do you think common sense would tell them is the rookie?

Saka Pop Report

Problem 4: Would We Consider These Rookies If There Was No RC Shield?
To test this out I put out a hypothetical poll on the @SoccerCardsHQ IG account. You can see the exact wording and results below. I decided to use Jude Bellingham because he was a perfect fit for what we saw in 2020 Immaculate. Jude had his first card released in 2020 and all of his rookies are considered to be in 2020-2021 sets. If the set was released this week in which I am publishing this it would’ve been the exact week 2020 Immaculate came out just 1 year later. You can see from the poll results the response was overwhelmingly that we would not consider it a rookie. The only reason I believe these 2020 Immaculate cards will stand the test of time is that few will do their research and the RC shield will foot them.

Jude Bellingham Poll

Problem 5: Is The Haaland Even Licensed?
This is a very specific problem and one that many will not even think about, but it bothers me so I am listing it. Haaland is in a Borussia Dortmund kit for this set. Panini to my knowledge does not have a license that would allow them to use the BVB for this image. For other young players that were playing the Bundesliga in the 2019-2020 season, like Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, they put them in German kits. This set has players in club and international kits which is a mess unto itself but that’s a whole other story. They listed other Bundesliga players such as Serge Gnabry in his Munich kit so either they say screw the license let Topps sue us or they went direct to the team. If they do have a BVB license I am very surprised they don’t use it more. If you have insight into how this is possible please email or DM me.

Now that you have all the info do you consider the 2020 Immaculate Collection Soccer to have rookies? Would love to know your thoughts. Comment on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @SoccerCardsHQ or join the Facebook Group HERE.