How FIFA Determines the Next Face of Football

How FIFA Determines the Next Face of Football

Manuel Veth –

The FIFA World Cup showcases the world’s best players and has always been a springboard for the next generation of young talent to receive big club contracts and endorsement deals. The World Cup makes stars into legends, and often these legends appear on the cover of the latest FIFA game. In 2002, Roberto Carlos featured on the cover of FIFA 2003 after winning the World Cup with Brazil that year.

Two of the most internationally renowned players of this generation, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, starred in this year’s World Cup in Russia, albeit with mixed success. We discussed the two superstars in a previous article on Fussballstadt, remarking how Ronaldo is the deadliest scorer in football while Messi is the best player alive.

Yet, both are passing their zenith, and with Ronaldo 33 and Messi 31 years of age, Russia is likely their last World Cup. While neither will be World Cup winners, by the end of this year both will have featured as the face of football for FIFA.

FIFA had many prominent faces

Since its inception in 1993, with EA Sports’ first-ever football title: “FIFA 94”, the sports franchise has been putting star players in the digital limelight. Featuring players on its cover since the beginning, it was only in the early and mid-2000s that stars like Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi were being offered multi-year contracts to be featured on the game’s cover.

When Messi began his dominance in 2012, EA was quick to pick him up and feature him for the next four years on their cover, further helping him receive international exposure. Messi has since received lucrative endorsement deals with Pepsi, Air Europa and Dolce & Gabbana, with Sportskeeda reporting that they are worth over $8 million (€6.9 million) per year.

Marco Reus featured on FIFA 17 (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Marco Reus featured on FIFA 17 (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

When Messi’s contract was not renewed in 2016, Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus took over as the face of the FIFA 17 edition. This time, EA went back to the fan-voting system; over 3.1 million FIFA fans worldwide voted for the German star-in-the-making. The game broke sales records in Germany with over 1 million copies sold on all platforms. Such is the appeal of football, and the FIFA franchise, that it has helped bring major exposure and capital to countries where football is not the top sport.

The digital market is growing

Since the FIFA franchise’s inception, there has been an influx of football games trying to tap into the huge gaming market. FoxyBingo have several games based on popular sports including Striker Goes Wild, which is designed to target football’s online mobile gaming fans.

This shows how vast the market is for football fans who enjoy the sport on digital platforms, and demonstrates why the announcement of the next FIFA cover star is considered one of the biggest events in sports gaming. The next stars on the cover of FIFA 19 will be Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr., both of whom put in strong performances at this year’s World Cup.

With a new generation of young superstars in the making, the likes of Kylian Mbappe of France (19), Lucas Torreira of Uruguay (21) and England’s Harry Kane (24) to name a few, the future face of FIFA is likely playing at the World Cup right now. Whoever performs well at the World Cup will definitely puts themselves in the frame for one of football’s most prestigious endorsement deals.

Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.