As one of my favourite designs to date from this manufacturer, there is a potential return to be made from various selections in the Topps UCL Living Set, and we are going to dive into five of the very best from this group from its latest collection.
What is the Topps UCL Living Set?
Well, it’s a thing of beauty, is what it is!
Following a growing trend of hand-drawn football relics.
Topps has been at the forefront of the card-collecting industry for a very long time, and have mastered the art of keeping things fresh, yet nostalgic when needed.
As a result, they’ll probably always be one of the most trusted manufacturers around.
And the Topps UCL Living Set is a testament to the Production and Partnerships team for keeping the memories of yesteryear alive, and mixing it with the excitement of today to form something very unique in the modern cards industry.
Commissioning artist Musa Drammeh to hand-draw a few of the icons and breakthrough players of the 2019/20 season, in a style not dissimilar to one from the late ‘70s, we’re going to go through the highest value cards from this collection.
Where not every reason will be the same, but almost equally (if not more) impactful.
Since that year, further iterations of this design have been released by Topps, and it’s appearing to be one of the most aesthetic formats they’ve ever had, which makes for a collectors’ dream if you’re able to find a gem from its latest season (2021/22) to keep for the future.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a replacement for sound, financial advice. The word ‘investment’ is used speculatively in regard to trends already seen in the football trading card market. For any serious financial investment, please consult experts within that area.
Ryan Gravenberch at AFC Ajax
I used to adore watching Ryan Gravenberch.
In fact, I loved that entire era of AFC Ajax in general under Erik Ten Hag.
The fluidity of their movement, the versatility of the men selected – it was a generous homage to the times gone by which has formed the fabric of the institution ever since.
Founded upon the principle of ‘building from within’, it’s become commonplace for Ajax youth stars to progress through into the first team before inevitably hitting that glass ceiling which plagues the long-term careers of most players in the Eredivisie.
Its genesis seemed to begin with Johan Cruyff moving to Barcelona, then we saw Ronaldo, Romario and Ruud van Nistelrooy all setting sail to Europe too.
More recently, Ten Hag’s side was completely picked apart – Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs De Ligt, Donny van De Beek and Hakim Ziyech have all left Ajax by the time of writing this, and Ryan Gravenberch is unfortunately no different – he joined FC Bayern last Summer.
Strictly speaking, I thought this was a good move. Bayern have a great approach to developing young players and he’d learn from the midfielders ahead of him. Only at the moment, his playing time in Bavaria has stagnated to under 200 minutes this season.
So, it might mean that a move is in the offing, or it’ll take a little longer than usual to realise his potential. But that also means that his time at Ajax will be cast further aside.
And his Topps UCL Living Set design already has a whiff of ‘rookie’ about it.
Which, as we explored in this article – is never a bad thing in terms of long-term value.
Jude Bellingham at Dortmund
It’s hard to accurately describe how good Jude Bellingham is.
But it’s quite easy to ascertain where his career is headed.
After a stellar outing at the Qatar World Cup this past winter, stock is continuing to rise in the precocious Brummy midfielder, and his Topps UCL Living Set came long before that, so one can only imagine where the value of his memorabilia will be in the years coming.
As things stand, that glass ceiling we mentioned with Dutch players is fast approaching him during what’s been a brilliant few seasons with Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
We’ve already seen a similar evolution with Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland.
Though the inevitable relocation of Jude Bellingham will happen after this January Transfer Window, it is, like I say – inevitable that a big move is coming for him.
If I were a betting man, my money would be stacked into two clubs vying for his coveted signature. They would be: Real Madrid and Liverpool. The latter because they need a bit of a revamp and the former because he’s the missing piece in their Tchouameni and Camavinga midfield jigsaw.
Whatever the choice, it will take roughly £100m for the privilege of either side to sign him, but when they do, it’ll cast his time prior to moving into the ether if it works out well.
Thus, his Topps UCL Living Set card will be among the more aesthetic options to commemorate his time in Germany compared to others. A similar mention must also be said for Youssofo Moukoko who, although has apparently signed a new deal to keep him at Dortmund until 2026, is sure to be on the move should his career pan our as expected.
Benjamin Seško at RB Salzburg
I can’t tell you how much I wanted Manchester United to sign Benjamin Sesko.
Apparently, we’ve been linked with him since those awful Ralf Rangnick days, but with Erik Ten Hag ramping up the search for his archetypal big, aggressive front man and a sea-change on the horizon for the club he manages, it could be a real possibility.
Only, it’ll be a little tougher than originally anticipated as Sesko has already moved on from the team he represented when his Topps UCL Living Set design was produced.
Although the colours aren’t very different (in fact, barely anything was different), his move to RB Leipzig has all-but ensured that his value will be on the rise for the next season.
He’s still scoring goals, still getting the attention and teams like United aren’t ignoring it.
Moving forward, we can expect that in the post-Lukaku (to Chelsea) and Darwin Nunez (to Liverpool) market, that he will command an exorbitant fee sooner than we think.
But it’s best to get in with this Sesko piece before it becomes too valuable to source.
Having said that, his card has the same luxury as the Gravenberch piece – with perhaps an even more attractive design to it with the pose they’ve used. He’s already moved from Salzburg, so the nostalgia effect is already taking its course as he writes another chapter in his career with Leipzig. Soon, the market will make that Red Bull distinction too.
And when that happens, you’re going to want to wish you got one of the world’s ‘next big strikers’ before he makes that big move he deserves. Like with Nunez’ Benfica card.
Eddie Nketiah at Arsenal
This is a bit of a rogue choice, I’m aware of that.
But it comes down to analysing the fan base and their emotional response to a player.
At the beginning of the 2022/23 season, the Arsenal fan base was pretty mixed when it came to the little issue of embedding Eddie Nketiah into their side.
The summer transfer window saw the arrival of ex-Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus for a fee in the region of £40 million. Which signalled that Mikel Arteta (who usually plays with a solitary striker) was going to favour the incoming Brazilian over Nketiah.
Some may have even thought that (injuries aside), Nketiah would play only a bit-part player who benefits from the homegrown player rule for the subsidiary cup fixtures.
At the start of the season, it played out almost exactly like that, with Jesus’ bright performances being a catalyst to drive Arsenal to an unlikely title charge.
Then, that World Cup in Qatar halted his progress, and Nketiah was up to bat.
Since the resumption of the Premier League, the incumbent, unfancied Englishman has turned from a pariah into the saviour at The Emirates, with a large contingent of ‘plastic’ Arsenal fans struggling to remember a world where he wasn’t a regular starter.
So, while I don’t expect Nketiah to be like any of the aforementioned youngsters in the sense of ‘pigning for a big move’ and us collectors wanting to ‘get in early’, his card from the Topps UCL Living Set will maintain its value for as long as Arsenal do in the league.
Naturally, as time goes on, the title race begins to take shape and right now it’s looking likely that Nketiah could be an unlikely helper in their first championship since Wenger.
If that happens, a lot of Arsenal fans will want their keepsake of the players who were able to realise that dream. Among whom, Nketiah will probably take ‘cult hero’ status.
And we all know how valuable those types of players can be.
All in all, I love this Topps UCL Living Set.
It’s personal, well designed and points to a number of exciting players.
Of course, there are the typical Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar cards which are valuable in themselves, but I think that the general theme of this set pertains to more than just the players who have ‘already been there and done that’.
It’s almost as if the artist wanted to commemorate these players for the heights they’ve achieved so far and reward them for the career they’re destined to enjoy.
Only time will tell if that’s true, but for now, even the PSA 10 versions for these players come to an average of £40-50 on eBay and it’s worth snagging one for yourself.
So, which player would you most like from this Topps UCL Living Set?