The Stratospheric Rise of Lionel Messi’s Pink Jersey

The Stratospheric Rise of Lionel Messi’s Pink Jersey


Within days of Lionel Messi’s announcement that he would join Inter Miami, stores and suppliers had asked Adidas for nearly half a million jerseys.

All of a sudden, after a single summer, the pink jersey is everywhere. It has become almost impossible to acquire, yet there it is, paradoxically, on the backs of thousands of fans thronging American stadiums, hanging from market stalls in Buenos Aires and Bangkok, a vivid flash on almost every field where children gather to play soccer in England.

On the day Messi announced he would sign for Inter Miami, Adidas had a stock of Inter Miami jerseys in stores and storage facilities around the United States. It did not last. The shirts sold out so quickly that Southard said it seemed the inventory simply “evaporated.”

It had learned that from experience. In 2021, when Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United, one of the handful of retailers Adidas works with, Fanatics, asked for a million more jerseys. A year later, after Messi helped Argentina win the World Cup, Adidas had to produce and ship an extra 400,000 Argentine national team shirts in the span of three months.

Getting pink jerseys bearing Messi’s name and No. 10 into the market, Southard said, immediately became Adidas’s “No. 1 priority, globally.”


In Europe, where tribal affiliations to local clubs run deep, Miami jerseys are suddenly commonplace. At a training session for elementary school children last month in Manchester, England, the usual concentration of Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool gear was flecked with a half dozen pink Inter Miami jerseys, each bearing Messi’s name.

It is difficult to overstate the scale of demand. Official sales have surpassed every benchmark Adidas could have imagined, Southard said: more than the frenzy that accompanied David Beckham’s move to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007; beyond the rush prompted by Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United in 2021; beyond the clamor for Messi’s Argentina shirt in the aftermath of Qatar 2022.

Inter Miami is now the best-selling Adidas soccer jersey in North America, ahead of all five of the storied European clubs that the brand traditionally regards as the crown jewels of its portfolio: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Arsenal.

Since July, Fanatics, which dominates sports apparel in the United States, has sold more Messi jerseys than for any other soccer player, and any athlete at all except the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. No player, in any sport, has ever sold more jerseys on the site in the first 24 hours after switching teams than Messi did in July.