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How Cristiano Ronaldo Became Soccer’s Crypto King

As fan tokens and NFTs provide new revenue streams for world football, CR7 might just be the face of both.

One year ago, as stadium lights around the world shut off, sports fans surely anticipated a short-term shut down or two. Now, over a year later, the experience of being a supporter has changed far more dramatically than any of us could have predicted.

With few (if any) fans allowed to attend live games even now, teams and leagues have been compelled to innovate new ways to engage with their fanbases — and discover new revenue streams.

To make this happen, European soccer teams are leading the way with an assist from the blockchain, ushering in the age of not just collectible NFTs, but digital “fan tokens.”

And there’s only one man who can lay claim to being the face of both innovatons: Juventus and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Back in 2019, Juventus was the first soccer club to launch an “Official Fan Token,” releasing 20 million at $2 each on the Chiliz blockchain. Essentially a team-specific currency, these tokens grant fans special access to their favorite clubs, from exclusive perks and prizes to the ability to vote on key decisions like jersey designs.

Last month, when Ronaldo eclipsed Pelé’s career club-and-country scoring record with a hat trick against Cagliari, Juve had the perfect way to celebrate: by presenting him with a gift of 770 fan tokens — one for each career goal — in an on-field ceremony.

He’s the first footballer to be awarded with fan tokens, and given his incredible influence, it’s likely to be the start of a much-copied trend.

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Now two years (and one pandemic) into their lifespan, fan tokens are not just mainstream, but among the hottest items in the crypto space. The market value of those original Juventus Official Fan Tokens is now north of $15, and there’s no better pitchman for driving their sustained popularity than Ronaldo, a five-time UEFA Champions League winner and one of the highest-paid, most famous athletes in the history of sports.

To date, 24 clubs have launched fan tokens, including Paris-Saint Germain, FC Barcelona, and Manchester City. But none of those clubs have CR7 — who also happens to be the standard-bearer for another blockchain-powered craze.

As NBA Top Shot exploded in popularity and put sports-themed NFT collectibles on the map, the soccer world subsequently offered its own answer in the form of Sorare. The Paris-based platform invites users not just to buy and sell licensed player trading cards on its official marketplace, but to use them to compete for prizes in a five-a-side fantasy soccer game.

In February, LeBron James became the king of Top Shot when one of his highlight Moments sold for $208,000. At the time, it was the most expensive sports NFT ever sold on a dedicated marketplace. But last month, King James was dethroned by Cristiano the Great.

A 1-of-1 Sorare card featuring the legendary Portuguese forward sold for $290,000. Already the standard-bearer for soccer fan tokens, he had become the very same for the sports NFT market.

Lionel Messi superfans surely won’t want to acknowledge it, but here and now, Ronaldo is truly the face of crypto for the world’s most popular sport. And backed by his influence, there’s no telling just how high the ceiling is on this ever-expanding craze.

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