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Is it necessary to be mugs? This is Lionel Messi. When we talk about his position in world football it is generally in 3 categories: The greatest shirtseller of all time? 1. He is the greatest of all time, an idea held by some fans 2. He is the greatest current player during his time at the top, again a view held by some fans 3. He is one of the greatest players ever, this time probably everyone would agree It is not, usually, except for the marketing experts at his clubs, about what he can generate in shirt sales and so on. But what he, and that other elite band of top players have, is an ability to create astounding sales for their clubs and their kit maker for their shirts and other merchandise. Messi has sold many, many millions of shirts for Barcelona, PSG and Argentina and will now do the same for Inter Miami. Generally the star players make more money for their clubs than the rest of the team combined. This is certainly true of both Messi and Ronaldo, the iconic duo that splits fans as to who is the GOAT. I am not getting into the argument here of which of them is the best footballer but I will talk mostly about Messi to make my argument. Or maybe Ronaldo is the greatest shirtseller of all time? It is difficult to get exact figures of how many shirts they have sold but it is certainly many millions each. My research reckons something like 10 million for Messi. Now, there is a counterpoint of fake shirts which could well also reach the same figures or more but they are not quite as relevant to my thesis as the money doesn’t go into the clubs. We need the fickle fans to buy, buy, buy What it means is that we, as fans, buy, and buy big, to hand over money to our chosen teams. It is strange to me that when Messi signed for PSG something like 1 million shirts were sold in his first season. It indicates that fans follow players rather than clubs, just as fans follow winners rather than teams. Take Man City and Chelsea, for example, both in the top ten brands of football clubs worldwide now, purely due to fans switching and young kids wanting to follow winners. As you go up the sporting ladder you can sell more merchandise. It seems to me that the instant fans are in the majority and they are buyers. Only a mug would buy a mug But let’s take the “real fans” for a moment. Someone who hasn’t switched clubs and takes the chance to see their team whenever they can and add to that the season ticket holders and regular attenders. For Arsenal there are 180,000 official fans in the club membership in the various categories. But Arsenal has an estimated 125 million fans worldwide as well. I basically pay to get into matches and normally buy a programme. I don’t buy merchandise unless asked to. Most of my Arsenal stuff are personal presents or freebies from ASCB or Arsenal Red membership. I have no real idea whether “real fans” also normally big buyers but I suspect maybe not too much, though for sure some of them are. Handing over ludicrous sums to attend matches is enough for me, I am not going to start handing them way over the odds for shirts, etc. Real Madrid: The kings of branding at the moment The winners take it all But that 125 million followers are a strong base to sell to. The other big clubs would have similar or even more. The thing is, it is those big teams which win nearly everything Man City, Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid, etc., are also the biggest merchandise sellers. It is a crucial part of their branding. Vast numbers of people want to be associated with the brand of their team. Real Madrid were ranked first in brands at $1,636.56m in 2022, Arsenal tenth with $815.01m. That’s just the brand value if you were to make an offer for it to make money from selling official produce, not anything else. The Kroenke's paid $777m for all of Arsenal. It’s looking good for them, isn’t it? Ah, the branding is becoming essential to making money My point is, and apologies for taking so long to get to it, is, that as the other top teams make a fortune out of merchandise sales, Arsenal have to do so too. And so all the mug punters out there are helping to keep their team near the top by buying, at prices over the odds, as much merchandise as they can afford. Now, paying more than you should for something is regarded as a mugs game. Only stupid people do so. And yet your team needs you to do so. I am a bit of a mug by paying what, not too long ago, would have been seen as crazy money to see a football match. But I don’t normally buy produce except programmes. Programmes are not too overpriced, anyway. You need to buy a Declan Rice shirt quickly, it's your Arsenal duty Can I feel superior to those that are addicted to buying all the strips, home, away, alternative, special ones, cups, glasses, flags, banners, boots, shoes, etc that you can buy online or in your Arsenal store? It seems not as without them my team would go backwards. And so, I am left with only one conclusion. Yes it is necessary to be a mug to support a top football team. Welcome to stupidville, Gus, and don’t forget to keep paying big bucks. We have come a long way since shirt sales appeared in the late 1970's to small sales, mostly as presents for kids and with little enthusiasm to adults.