The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar might well be the swansong for generational talents Lionel Messi, 35, and Cristiano Ronaldo, 37. Aside from jaw-dropping career stats, though, there is something else that links the pair: a budding interest in the web3 world.
The Argentine No.10 and CR7 aren’t the only World Cup superstars to have dipped their toes into the web3 world either: several notable players have entered the space in recent years, whether through releasing their own NFT collections, investing directly in startups, or becoming brand ambassadors for crypto exchanges and NFT marketplaces.
So, who are they?
Kylian Mbappé (France)
Ahead of the tournament, French striker Mbappé was widely identified as the player capable of upstaging ageing legends Messi and Ronaldo. The 23-year-old Paris Saint-Germain talisman is one of the game's most marketable names, having sealed sponsorship deals with luxury watchmaker Hublot and Nike.
Earlier this year, Mbappé also became an investor and brand ambassador for Sorare, a blockchain-based fantasy sports platform with ties to La Liga, the Bundesliga and Major League Baseball. As part of the deal, Sorare will support the player’s charity, Inspired By KM (IBKM), which educates kids from disadvantaged backgrounds about the advantages of web3 tech.
Neymar Jr (Brazil)
Shortly before the World Cup commenced, Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr – a PSG teammate of Mbappé – collaborated with internet company The9 Limited to drop Beastmode Metaverse, a special edition NFT series through the NFTSTAR platform.
The striker will work with NFTSTAR’s creative team to develop further collections, including video, animation, and other digital artworks which will chronicle key moments from his career. The Beastmode Metaverse is intended as an interactive journey wherein fans can unlock perks and prizes along the way.
Antoine Griezmann (France)
Atlético Madrid talisman Antoine Griezmann was Man of the Match in the 2018 World Cup final, when France overcame Croatia to lift the trophy. And he’s bound to be key to the nation’s bid to defend the title.
Last year, the forward participated in Sorare’s $50m Series A funding round, alongside ex-players Rio Ferdinand and Oliver Bierhoff. Though the value of his pledge wasn’t disclosed, we’re guessing he’s glad he made it: Sorare’s Series B round raised $680m, and the company is now valued at over $4 billion.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Lionel Messi is one of many celebrities entering the NFT space, with his latest Messi Time Machine collection dropping on December 2 – a day before Argentina face Australia for a place in the quarterfinals. That drop, a collaboration with web3 firm Ethernal Labs and their NFT marketplace Ethernity, includes a standout NFT experience documenting each of his World Cup appearances dating back to 2006, with exclusive artwork by Victor Mosquera.
This isn’t Messi’s first web3 rodeo, of course: he’s also a brand ambassador for BC.Game and Socios and recently took a stake in Sorare.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ahead of what is likely to be his final World Cup (although can you really rule out a return at 41?), Cristiano Ronaldo – owner of the most-followed Instagram account on Earth and a half-decent footballer too – launched his inaugural NFT collection with Binance.
The drop features seven of CR7’s most iconic moments, immortalized as CGI-rendered statues with four different rarity levels conferring perks such as autographed merch and a personal message from Ronaldo himself. Interestingly, Binance and Ronaldo promoted the collection with a 60-second ad featured across TV, digital and social channels in 74 countries and 28 languages.
Dani Alves (Brazil)
Dani Alves has won just about everything in football, including a World Cup, Olympic title and three Champions Leagues with Barcelona. At 39, he is in the twilight of his career but retains enough quality to make a Brazil team that might just end up claiming the top prize in Qatar.
Back in June, the defender announced his eponymous Metaverse and NFT room in Dubai, where visitors can interact with the player’s avatar and review his achievements in the sport. Access is granted via an NFT included in the collection Alves developed with MetaTerrace, ColossalBit and luxury watchmaker Backes & Strauss.
Interestingly, B&S also developed 43 luxury timepieces to commemorate the number of trophies Alves won during his career, with each watch fractionalized as NFTs that provide ownership of the physical counterpart.
Web3 has played a big part in this year’s tournament. Indeed, FIFA has its own NFT marketplace, FIFA+ Collect, which lets users collect officially licensed digital collectibles from almost 100 years of international football. Crypto.com is an official sponsor of the tournament, and the governing body has a technical partnership with the Algorand blockchain.
There’s even a FIFA metaverse inside Roblox, complete with mini games and a live-streaming lounge.