The infamous number ten shirt worn by Diego Maradona in the ‘Hand of God’ game against England at World Cup ’86 has sold at auction for £7.1 million – making it the most valuable piece of sporting memorabilia in history.
The Argentine netted a sublime solo strike – widely regarded as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history – and his controversial handball in the victory over the Three Lions in the quarter-finals, with the latter still regarded as one of the most iconic moments in football to this day.
After the game, Steve Hodge – who played in the England midfield on that fateful day – bumped into Maradona in the tunnel, and immediately asked him to swap shirts.
The former Nottingham Forest and Leeds United man held onto the famous jersey for the next 36 years, and it spent around a decade housed at the National Football Musuem in Manchester. Hodge decided earlier this year to finally put it up for sale, with Sothebys commissioned to oversee an auction with a guide price of between £4-6 million.
And as the hammer was set to fall on a winning bid of around £5 million, a late offer of £7.1 million – reportedly from a bidder in the Middle East with ties to Manchester City – was enough to secure the victory.
That monumental sum makes Maradona’s shirt the most expensive piece of sporting memorabilia ever sold – as confirmed by Sotheby’s head of collectibles Brahm Wachter.
“This is arguably the most coveted football shirt to ever come to auction, and so it is fitting that it now holds the auction record for any object of its kind.”
That spontaneous moment that Steve Hodge decided to ask Maradona for his shirt was one of the best – and most lucrative – decisions the now 59-year-old will ever make.
As well as owning a slice of history, Hodge now enters the record books as the seller of the most valuable item of sporting memorabilia ever.
It beats the previous record of £7 million set in 2019 by the original Olympic manifesto, penned in 1892 to set out the mission of the Games. Autographed by the writer Pierre de Coubertin, the original manuscript had never been seen before publicly prior to the Sotheby’s auction. The identity of the buyer is still not known to this day.
The most valuable match-worn shirt in history goes to a jersey that bedecked the baseball hall-of-famer Babe Ruth. The New York Yankees top, worn by the great between 1928-30, was sold by Hunt Auctions at the Yankees’ Stadium in June 2019 for £4.4 million.
Incredibly, two more items of Ruth memorabilia feature in the top ten most expensive of all time – including a 1920 match-worn shirt of his that sold for £3.5 million. That was the third most valuable piece on record prior to the Maradona shirt sale.
As far as football is concerned, one of the most valuable items in the sport’s history was the old FA Cup trophy, acquired by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour for £760,000 in 2021.