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Lionel Messi Invests in in NFT fantasy soccer game Sorare

  • Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi is joining the French NFT trading card game Sorare as an investor and brand ambassador.

  • Sorare lets users trade digital player cards and manage teams of five in fantasy soccer tournaments.

  • The partnership with Sorare adds to a slew of deals between sports stars and crypto platforms.

Soccer star Lionel Messi is joining Sorare, the French nonfungible token trading game, as an investor and brand ambassador.

The Argentinian, who plays as a forward for the French club Paris Saint-Germain, will help Sorare set new standards for how fans connect with clubs and players, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Sorare also said that they will work together to make new content and fan experiences.

As part of the deal, Messi bought a share of Sorare, the company said, but didn’t say how much he bought or what the other terms were. Sorare’s CEO and co-founder, Nicolas Julia, said that the deal with Messi was a “huge milestone” for the company.

“We believe Messi will help us set new standards in how we do this, and we look forward to sharing what new content and fan experiences we’ve been collaborating on soon,” he told CNBC via email.

Sorare lets people trade digital player cards and run five-person fantasy soccer teams. The cards are nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which are virtual collectibles that keep track of who owns them on the blockchain. Sorare says that this makes each card “digital scarcity”.

The Paris-based startup was last valued at $4.3 billion. It has more than 2 million users in over 185 countries and works with more than 300 sports teams and leagues, such as Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga. It used to be mostly about soccer, but now it also covers basketball and baseball, among other sports.

“Fans have always looked for ways to express their passion and get closer to the players and teams that they love and Sorare’s combination of a fantasy game with digital collectibles gives fans new ways to do that, wherever they are in the world,” said Messi in a statement Wednesday.

The collaboration with Sorare adds to a spate of noteworthy deals involving prominent athletes and cryptocurrency platforms. Kylian Mbappe, a French soccer player, and Serena Williams, an American tennis legend, have already announced partnerships with Sorare. Tom Brady acquired a stake in the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which on Tuesday agreed to be acquired by rival business Binance following a liquidity issue.

Messi himself previously agreed to take part of his salary in $PSG fan tokens, a cryptocurrency developed by blockchain sports platform Socios for Paris Saint-Germain, as part of his two-year contract with the club. The tokens have since plummeted in value, dropping 86% since their August 2021 peak when Messi announced the Socios partnership, raising fears for average sports fans vulnerable to huge losses.

“There has been a lot of hype around different football projects using non-fungible technology up to now, but the ones that stick around will be those that offer real underlying utility and see non-fungible technology as the means to achieving their goals, not the ends,” Julia told CNBC.

He also hooked up with Socios on a separate three-year partnership in March to become a global brand ambassador for the company. Julia told CNBC the deal with Sorare was an “exclusive agreement.” However, a Socios spokesperson said Messi’s deal with the firm “still stands” and it doesn’t consider Sorare to be a direct competitor.

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