Panini has been in Portugal for around for what seems ages now. The first Panini “Futebol” (name of the Portuguese league sticker collection) came out in 1981-82. Back then, there were so many different companies making stickers (to the point it seemed like every graphics company was making one album), because collecting was a big thing here in Portugal. It was cool back then, and it looked like everyone was collecting football albums.
The 90’s came and Panini was slowly getting the monopoly of the sticker market, with less and less competition as the 90’s progressed. Panini even started to release cards: “Futebol 1998-1999. Trading cards” as they were popular in other Panini markets such as Spain and Italy. It looked like the sky was the limit for Panini and the Portuguese market was a really good one to invest.
The 2000’s came, the Euro currency was adopted, and Portugal was a thriving country. The economy was good, Portugal organized the Euro 2004, and the famous “Mega Craques 2003” set was released. The packs were super cheap (0.20€ each!!!) so collecting was affordable to everyone! So a lot of people did both the sticker and card albuns.
Then the 2010 Portuguese crisis hit. And it hit hard. Collecting was now a second thought. Many people stop doing it (I did that for instance) as the money was better suited for other essential things. And Panini was hit too as less and less people were buying packs. Mega Craques left the market in 2014 and Adrenalyn XL in 2017. As time went on, the packs increased in price too. At the moment it is 0.80€ per pack (40€ per box of 50 packs), a price that also drives people away from collecting. The target demographics are the kids. If the parents find the price too high they don’t buy it for their kids - less income for Panini and less “new” collectors emerge.
In the late 2010’s, early 2020’s a new player showed up to the scene - Topps. Topps has bought the rights for the Champions League and released Topps UCL sticker album and Topps Match Attax. Both are present, right now in the Portuguese market. In early 2021, Topps released a set called “Topps Best of the Best”, which is also featured in Portugal. There is also another set from Topps you can get in Portugal, Topps Turbo F1.
At one point in time, in early 2021, you would go to your corner kiosk (place where we buy packs) and you could get 3 Topps football products vs 1 Panini one.
This, to me (and this is the main point of this article), suggests that Topps is trying to introduce themselves to the average Portuguese collector. Also, I think it is just a matter of time that Topps will have the rights of the Liga Bwin and make the Portuguese sticker album. Their approach to the market has been very aggressive, so it seems like they want to have the monopoly of it.
For starters I think this is a good move! A bit of fresh air is always nice! This could also mean the return of cards in the form of the Match Attax. But it also can mean other things. They can release Topps Chrome Portuguese league if they want. Wait, wait, just hear me out first. They can do a 100 base card set, which divided by 18 teams, equals 5 cards per team. The does not need to be an high print run set - the parallels could be start at /99 then, /50, /25, /10, /5, /1.
The good thing about this set would be the autos as you have sooo many options:
- Figo for Sporting CP
- Cristiano Ronaldo for Sporting CP
- Rui Costa for Benfica
- João Félix for Benfica
- Deco for Porto
- James Rodriguez for Porto
And for the lesser known teams:
- Éder for Braga
- Quaresma for Vitória de Guimarães
- Diogo Jota for Paços de Ferreira
- Podence for Moreirense
- Pedro Gonçalves for Famalicão
- Jackson Martinez for Portimonense
- Angel Gomes for Boavista
- Silvestre Varela for B-sad
- Tiago Dantas for Tondela
- Morita for Santa Clara
- Fujimoto for Gil Vicente
- Pepe for Marítimo
I think this would be a great expansion in the European market by Topps. This could be a set similar to what Topps does with MLS. They can even sell this set in Portugal, but as I said before, the price HAS TO BE RIGHT! They can’t just go there and ask 200€ per hobby box, but 60-80€ would be a good price to me. They would have customers as a lot of people joined the hobby (like me) in 2020. This was the year for Panini to do Mega Craques again, and they did not, which leads me to believe that they don’t think the Portuguese market is that valuable. With the rookies that come out every year I think this was a big mistake by Panini. I think Topps would not make this mistake and they would pull the trigger once they have the chance. And I think sooner or later I will be making Topps pack openings!
Only time will tell if this is going to really happen.
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