The Champions League starts back up this week that means all eyes of the soccer world will be on the same games. The Champions League has as much impact on the hobby as any event on a yearly basis. As we get closer to the finals the impact will be greater but that does not mean you should ignore the Round of 16 games that start Tuesday. There are couple of big fixtures that could really move card prices.
Last year before the Round of 16 I had a fellow collector ask me what he should be buying for the games. Since he only buys wax, I told him to buy wax that had Mbappe. He decided on a couple of boxes of 2017/2018 Topps Chrome which he got for around $1000 each. My reasoning was that PSG was playing Barcelona. I knew whichever team won that fixture would be the one that got the media coverage. It was Mbappe and Neymar vs Messi and was the biggest fixture of the round. I had a feeling just based on form that PSG would win and if Mbappe scored he would benefit. What I wasn’t counting on was the Mbappe hat trick that happened. Those Chrome boxes went from $1000 to $3000 in a couple of weeks.
Champions League Round of 16 Hobby Impact
These are the fixtures that I think could have a hobby impact this year and how you can possibly play them. This is meant to show a scenario where certain prices cold go up. The results on the field will ultimately determine whether prices go up.
PSG vs Real Madrid – PSG again plays in the marquee matchup of the Round of 16. This time with Messi on their squad. This fixture is sure to have a big hobby impact one way or the other. PSG of course has Messi, Mbappe and Neymar. Real Madrid has the hottest guy in the hobby right now, Vini Jr (Buy Rookie), along with Benzema and former hobby darling Camavinga. The winner of this matchup is not as obvious as the PSG vs Barcelona one of last year. PSG are the slight betting favorites but Real Madrid seems to be playing better right now.
If any of the big players score a brace or a hat trick their prices are going to shoot up. If Real Madrid end up winning the Vini Jr train may go full out of control. He has had a big runup this year but there is still room to run if he knocks in a couple of goals in the two games vs PSG. If Real Madrid loses and he doesn’t have much of an impact he will probably see his prices fall a bit since he has been so hot. Karim Benzema (Buy Rookie) is the more likely scorer and has always been undervalued in the hobby compared to his results. The likelihood this matchup moves his prices as much as Vinicius are smaller since he is older. That said he bangs in a few goals and Real Madrid advance he will see an uptick. It’s doubtful Camavinga (Buy Rookie) has much of an impact but if he does manage to score he will come back in hobby favor.
On the other side the PSG superstars are all in a bit of a hobby slump. Mbappe cards (Buy Rookie) and stickers (Buy Rookie) are down more than almost any player right now. He’s one I can’t quite wrap my head around. He is 2nd in Ligue 1 in goals and 1st in assists. He had 4 goals and 4 assists in the group stage of Champions League as well. France will be one of the favorites for the World Cup later this year. My only reasoning is that he went up so much he had to come down. Full disclosure I have been buying this dip. Lionel Messi cards (Buy Rookie) have also fallen off a bit. It is not nearly as much because he is of course well more established. He has not been scoring much for PSG this year which has hurt him. Neymar (Buy Rookie) is down as well but he has been injured. If PSG come out and advances I think the hobby will remember how good these guys are and people will have wished they were buying.
None of the other matchups will have near the effect that the Real Madrid/PSG will, but here are the breakdowns of how the other matchups could have a hobby impact.
Chelsea vs Lille – Chelsea are the big favorites in this one. The question will be who bangs in the goals for them. The team is full of hobby darlings as well as some older guys who don’t get much love. If the goals come from Christian Pulisic (Buy Rookie), Mason Mount (Buy Rookie), Kai Havertz (Buy Rookie) or even Timo Werner (Buy Rookie) they will see some price action. Especially the latter two who have fallen out of hobby favor. Lukaku could also see a bit of hobby resurgence that has gone cold since after his first couple games of the season. If guys like Jorginho, Thiago Silva or Hakim Ziyech score it won’t move the needle much. The problem with Chelsea is they spread goals around so much it’s hard for any one player to get a lot of love.
On the other side Lille has current hobby darling Jonathan David (Buy Rookie). He has been in great form for club and country this year. His prices have certainly gone up and playing for Canada helps that but his place on the world stage is not as established right now. If he bangs in a couple of goals and Lille advances he will see his prices surge even from here. I don’t think he has as much downside as say Vinicius Jr does right now as people are not expecting him to win and his national team performances will have just as much if not more effect than his club performances. Lille also has Timothy Weah (Buy Rookie). He is not as likely as David to have an impact, but if he does happen to knock in a couple of goals he will see some price action.
RB Salzburg vs Bayern Munich – Bayern Munich is all but certain to advance in this matchup. The fact that Salzburg is even here is amazing in itself. They are the first Austrian team and also the youngest team ever to advance to the Knockout Stage. There should be plenty of goals to be had for Bayern. Robert Lewandowski should certainly have a few. It’s tough to move his needle right now but an all time performance is certainly on the table in this matchup. More importantly for him will be Bayern’s ultimate finish in the Champions League. He is certainly one of the favorites to win the Ballon D’Or so far this year but will have quite a disadvantage not being in the World Cup.
On the other side is a team full of young hobby darlings. None bigger right now than Karim Adeyemi (Buy Rookie). He leads the team in scoring. More importantly he is rumored to be on the Erling Haaland path of Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund to be his replacement. If he were to score a goal or two vs Bayern he will certainly catch some more eyeballs. Salzburg’s second leading scorer is Noah Okafor (Buy Rookie). He was also part of the 2020/2021 rookie class. I pegged him as a possible 2022 hobby breakout player so you can read more about that HERE. Benjamin Sesko (Buy Rookie) is an 18 year old Slovenian forward that is part of the 2021/2022 sets that are just getting released. A goal or two from him will really get people excited. Finally Salzburg also has a young American in Brenden Aaronson (Buy Rookie). A goal by him would certainly get the attentions of the Americans.
Manchester United vs Atlético de Madrid – This is the matchup that will likely have the second most eyeballs on it behind PSG vs Real Madrid. Both soccer powerhouses have been a bit out of form so far this season. One will turn their season around while it could spiral for the loser. United are the betting favorites but advancing is far from certain in this one. as far as it relates to the hobby figuring out who will score the goals in this one is as important as tough as any matchup. Will Cristiano Ronaldo (Buy Rookie) get back on form? Will Jadon Sancho (Buy Rookie) continue is recent bit of form and become the next player to have a Vini Jr type resurgence? Will Bruno Fernandes (Buy Rookie) or Marcus Rashford (Buy Rookie) do something to make the hobby fall back in love with them again. All of those things are on the table. For Atlético it’s more likely than guys like Luis Suarez or Angel Correa are the guys that get the goals. While not likely based on current form if Joao Felix (Buy Rookie) breaks out he will see a surge. His prices are in the dumps right now. If you are someone who likes to gamble he is certainly a high upside low downside type play.
Ajax vs Benfica – The other team besides Salzburg with a couple of young hobby darlings in Ajax. Unlike Salzburg Ajax is the favorite to advance here. Other than Adeyemi no rookie from last year has had a rise like Antony (Buy Rookie). The 21 year old Brazilian has been on fire lately and people are starting to notice. 19 year old Dutch midfielder Ryan Gravenberch (Buy Rookie) is another 2020/2021 rookie that gets hobby love. The hobby problem as far as Ajax goes is that Sebastian Haller has been the one banging in all the Champions League goals for Ajax this year. He currently leads the competition with 10 goals. If a couple of the young guys get in on the goal scoring their prices should rise.
Benfica is led by 22 year old Uruguan forward Darwin Nunez (Buy Rookie). He has been scoring goals all season and is not really on the hobby radar right now. That could all change if he scores a few times and Benfica advances. He is a player that could be set up for some real gains if things break right.
Juventus vs Villareal – As far as the hobby is concerned this should be known as the Dusan Vlahovic (Buy Rookie) welcome to the Champions League matchup. Vlahovic prices have been hotter than anyone in the hobby which is quite amazing since he was playing for Fiorentina. Now he gets to play on the biggest club stage. Like Vini Jr he still has room to run or could start seeing a pull back. It depends how he performs. I can’t see much else here getting hobby interest other than Weston McKennie scoring a few goals to get Americans excited.
Inter Milan vs Liverpool – This should be one of the better matchups of the round. That said the hobby impact should not be that high. The Liverpool trio of Mohamed Salah (Buy Rookie), Sadio Mane (Buy Rookie) and Diogo Jota (Buy Rookie) have been performing all year and it didn’t mean much until the AFCON final between Salah and Mane. Salah was hot earlier in the year but has fallen off a bit. Mane is hot because he won the AFCON title so he is more likely to come down than up. Jota never seems to get any love even though he bangs in Premier League goals about as well an anyone. Liverpool will likely start getting love if they keep advancing. I just can’t see this being the matchup that causes it. For Inter Lautaro Martinez (Buy Rookie) is in the same boat as Jota. Both youngish players who bang in goals but not young enough for the hobby to get excited. Maybe a run for Inter could change that.
Manchester City vs Sporting CP – City should have no problems advancing here. Other than Phil Foden (Buy Rookie) going crazy or Cole Palmer (Buy Rookie) getting some run I don’t see there being much hobby impact coming out of this one.
Hopefully you can use this and mix it with your knowledge of soccer to make some plays. None of this is meant to be investment advice just knowledge that could help you. We are at a time now in the hobby where on field performance matters. These games will be where the hype for some of these players continues or dies.
*All Buy Rookie links go to Ebay listings.