Counterfeit Card Alert: 2004-05 Panini Megacracks Barca Campio #35 Lionel Messi

Posted on 5/8/2024

Although this counterfeit had many of the same features as a genuine example, several issues with the card enabled our graders to determine that it's not genuine.

As arguably the greatest soccer player of his generation, and one of the most decorated to ever play the game, Lionel Messi is revered around the world and is already a living legend. After winning the World Cup with Argentina in 2022, the former Barcelona star had won every personal and team trophy imaginable for club and country. The international victory on the grandest stage solidified Messi's place in the GOAT conversation.

As with any other athlete with highly sought-after collectibles, the higher the values, the more incentive there is to counterfeit them in an attempt to profit off of them. While some counterfeit sports cards are obvious fakes, others take expert analysis to identify them as not real.

Front and back views of a genuine 2004-05 Panini Megacracks Barca Campeon #35 Lionel Messi. (Explore the cards in this set, some of which have "Barca Campeon" and "Barca Campio" variants, in the CGC Cards Population Report.)

CGC Cards experts recently identified a counterfeit example of a 2004-05 Panini Megacracks Barca Campio #35 Lionel Messi rookie card. Sadly, an unsuspecting buyer who passes on third-party certification for a card like this could get scammed out of hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars.

Rookie cards of star players are always strong candidates for counterfeiting since they are often some of the most valuable cards of their career. This particular rookie card shows a teenaged Messi not long after being called up to the first team of Barcelona. Genuine copies of a 2004-05 Panini Megacracks card consist of a light, glossy surface. However, counterfeit copies tend to have a slightly thicker card stock and a more matte finish in comparison.

LEFT: Close-up of view of the Barca Campio logo on the front.
RIGHT: Close-up of view of Messi's name on the front.

In the images above, the differences stand out at first glance. The genuine version has more muted colors, while the counterfeit card's colors are much brighter. Although the logos and text on the front and back of the real card are slightly pixelated, they are much clearer on the genuine version than on the fake.

Taking a closer look at the "Barca Campio" logo, you should be able to clearly make out the "Megacracks" text. That isn't the case even when zoomed in on the counterfeit version, as the letters bleed into each other and are not clearly legible. The same can be said for the small "2004" and "2005" printed below Barca Campio, because it is much harder to read on the counterfeit card.

LEFT: Close-up of view of the Messi's stats on the back.
RIGHT: Close-up of view of Messi's name and jersey on the back.

Turning the card over to its back, further issues were identified, which helped prove the counterfeit card is a fake. Zooming in on Messi's bio and stats shows slightly "choppy" text on the genuine version but the fake card clearly has even more pixelated and grainy text in comparison.

Further inspection also shows more pixelation between the horizontal lines that are printed across the entirety of the back side of the card. On the back top right of the card, there is a small image of Messi's jersey just below his last name. A closer look reveals the background lines are much rougher and less defined on the counterfeit version compared to the authentic version.

Each of these red flags were pinpointed by CGC Cards experts and they were easily able to identify the counterfeit card as a fake. Identifying the issues with this card helps make the hobby safer, weeding out this counterfeit before collectors possibly added a card that has no value to their collection. Now, the sports card collecting community has one less high-value, fake Messi rookie card in circulation.

Education is the most important tool when collecting cards. The more collectors know about the printing and manufacturing process of cards, the fewer mistakes will be made when buying cards. This example also highlights the importance of certification for any high-value card.

CGC Cards authenticates, grades and encapsulates authentic examples of cards, making the hobby a safer place for collectors, traders and sellers. To do this, CGC Cards uses world-class expertise, advanced technology, innovation and operational excellence to provide sports card collectors and dealers with accurate and consistent certification services. CGC backs these determinations with the CGC Guarantee, which adds significant confidence, liquidity and value to the hobby. To learn more about CGC's industry-leading services, visit

Related Link:

More Counterfeit and Altered Card Alert columns

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free CGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the CGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add CGC Card

Create a Set

Join CGC for free to add cards, track your collection and participate in the CGC Trading Cards Registry or CGC Sports Cards Registry.

Join CGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to CGC Card Registry Example
Add to CGC Card Registry Example