Soccer Rookie Prospecting Has Changed
Soccer rookie card prospecting has changed a lot for 2021-22 products. The change started happening a bit with the 2020-21 products but reached a new level now. Topps is the main culprit behind the change. Panini is still dragging their feet and have fallen behind Topps in this regard. They will just add a RC the year after Topps releases the true rookie cards so not sure that will be changing any time soon. As little as 2 years ago the companies would only identify rookies after they started performing. Now Topps especially is searching out the youngest players they can use their licenses on to get into a product. This has led to rookie cards being made of players as young as 16. Most of the youngest players they are choosing have only appeared in a senior club game for a couple of minutes. They mostly are still playing at the academy or second tier levels. That is not a knock on their talent. They are only 16-17 years old. If they played one of the big American team sports they would still be in high school. This has created a new dynamic in the soccer card hobby that you need to understand if you want to navigate it.
How We Got Here
Most of the hobby was introduced to this concept thanks to Youssoufa Moukoko. I would even say Moukoko’s Topps Now card is the one that woke Topps up to start with this concept of making rookies of the youngest players they can find. The hobby fell in love with Moukoko but now his hype has fallen off a bit. He just played his age 16 season and he only scored 2 goals for BVB on the year. That is because he was playing behind one of the greatest strikers in the world, Erling Haaland. He was not expected to do much this year but I don’t think most soccer collectors realized that when they were shelling out big money for his cards. Now at the ripe age of 17 collectors have soured on him and panic sold while they are spending big money on a 25 year old that had rookies in the same 2020-21 sets, Luis Diaz. Moukoko will be 26 years old 3 World Cups from now. Just let that sink in when you juxtapose that to Luis Diaz.
What To Look At Before You Buy
I would say the most important change if you are in the prospecting game now is you need to look at a player’s age and the level they are mostly playing at right now. Rookies range in age from 16-24 and sometimes even higher now so obviously they aren’t all created equally. This isn’t like other sports where they are all entering their first year of the pros at the same time. There will be some soccer collectors that say soccer doesn’t really have rookies at all for that reason. Obviously for this discussion we are basing it on when a player’s cards come out. Everyone prospects different but for me age and level is one of the most important thing’s I look at. I also look at a player’s upcoming opportunity to perform which will in turn cause hobby excitement before buying. I tend to focus on the under 19 and under prospects as that is what is a level I think you need to have a breakout before to achieve max hype and superstardom. If you look back in time most of the players we consider superstars today broke out around 18. Those that didn’t can still be good to collect, can be flipped for money and become great players. They just have trouble breaking into that upper echelon which is the lottery winner a lot of people are trying to hit.
Just as an example, I started buying Karim Adeyemi rookie cards (Search on eBay) in early July of last year right after Sekou Koita got hurt. I knew that Salzburg had already lost a lot of goal scoring talent from the previous year through transfers and once Koita went down it was wide open for Adeyemi to score a lot of goals. He was only 19 so he was young enough for people get excited and his prices were very low because he had only scored 7 goals the season before. I saw those 7 goals on what was a loaded team as a big confirmation of his talent level. Most collectors don’t get excited for 7 goals. I also knew that Salzburg was a team that most of the hobby was familiar with so if he performed there it would gain notice. All those factors together made Adeyemi someone I targeted.
Now Adeyemi is gone and there will be someone else that scores his goals for Salzburg this season. There are a few candidates that have rookies in 2021-22 (Search on eBay) but pay attention to who signs there before blindly buying. It could also be the case where Koita (Search on eBay) comes back and scores all the goals which would be bad for the other rookies next year. Koita will be playing at 22 years old and if you would’ve asked me last year if I thought a player like him was investable, I would have said he’s too old for the hobby to breakout. Now seeing what has happened with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunes I would have to reconsider that line of thinking. Getting back to Adeyemi moving forward. I had planned on selling his cards if he moved to Bayern Munich. I was worried he would struggle for a time there. Now that he is at Borussia Dortmund I am fine holding as I think he has an opportunity for success.
There is no one correct way to prospect. This is just how I do it. I just hope this real example makes you think of possibilities before buying. Other investors will have different philosophies because there is more than one way to succeed. On top of that things such as injuries and transfers are out of your control and those play a big part.
Investing In Teenagers
Let’s look at the hot young rookie so far in the 2021-22 sets, Sidney Raebiger. He is also 16 years old and is coming off a season where he played just 4 minutes for RB Leipzig. That did not stop him from getting enough hobby hype to have one of his superfractors sell for over $14,000 (Search on eBay). Someone clearly either got some bad advice or was caught up in the hype. This is not to say that Raebiger is not a good player or can’t even be great one day because he can. It will just be years down the road. I doubt the person that paid $14,000 was thinking that far ahead. Now Raebiger has signed with a 2. Bundesliga (second tier) team because he wanted more playing time than Leipzig could offer him and his early prices will plummet for a while. He will end next year being 17 just like Moukoko is now. That does not mean he will ever be a player worth collecting. Many hyped teenagers fizzle to nothing. Just remember that Messi did nothing his age 17 year and got hurt early in his career. I would have loved for the hobby to be where it is now back when he was coming through.
You want to know why Mbappe is a superstar and even Ansu Fati was such a hot prospect before his injuries? It’s because they were one of the few 16-17 year olds ever who ever performed on the biggest stage. That is to show that it can be done but he is the exception and not the rule. Those are the players that allow people to hype up the new young guys every year. With Mbappe (Search on eBay) and Fati (Search on eBay) by the time their prices were exploding there was a reason why. As long as you don’t fall for FOMO you still have that luxury. Just wait until you see them actually do something before buying. More often than not you will be glad you did.
Don’t Get Swept Up In False Hype
The intention of this article is not to tell you who to collect. It is more meant to prevent you from getting caught up in the hype that always happens soon after the release of a product and to make you think before you blindly buy. I believe that a lot of premature hype comes from breakers who are looking for rookies to pump to inflate prices. Most don’t even know what they are talking about when to comes to soccer, but that doesn’t stop customers who trust them from listening. There is a big problem in this hobby of people thinking that other breakers or influencers are giving them info to help them. What they are really doing is giving you info so that they can profit off of you. I consider myself a decent soccer prospector which is why I put out my rookie reviews like the 2021-22 Topps Champions League Rookie Review. You will notice I don’t put out a list in order of who to buy. I just want people to be aware of what a player has done so far and what could help their prices go up in the future. You must also consider what you are trying to accomplish with prospecting. I would say 90% of the people that read this are in for a flip in less than a year. If that is the goal your mindset will be different than those looking to find the next Mbappe or Haaland.
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If you have any general questions just shoot a DM on Twitter @SoccerCardsHQ or IG @SoccerCardsHQ. Don’t ask me who you should buy as I don’t give that type of advice. You can join the FaceBook Groupp and ask others what they think. They will be happy to tell you. Just know they already have that player’s cards.