Some may have accused Manchester City of "buying trophies" due to the numerous Premier Leagues and other titles won under the big-spending Abu Dhabi Investment Group, but now the club have gone and literally bought themselves a trophy -- and not just any trophy, either.
Flying in the face of obvious punchlines, City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed has personally purchased the actual FA Cup that was awarded to the winners of football's oldest competition between 1896 and 1910.
Although City did not disclose the amount paid by Sheikh Mansour, auctioneers Bonhams announced that particular item of silverware was sold for £760,000 ($1.03m) to an anonymous buyer when it was auctioned on Sept. 29 last year.
On Friday, City confirmed the purchase and their intention of loaning it back to the National Football Museum in Manchester, where it has been housed since 2005.
We are delighted to announce we are now the proud custodian of the 1896-1910 #FACup following the recent purchase of the trophy at auction by Club owner, His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed.— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 8, 2021
🔷 #ManCity | https://t.co/axa0klD5rehttps://t.co/eRBRdbTFm0
The cup had been previously the property of West Ham co-owner David Gold, who put it up for sale last year. There were concerns the trophy may be bought privately and taken overseas, but Mansour stepped in to ensure that the iconic piece of silverware will be remaining in situ.
It is the oldest existing version of the trophy because the first FA Cup, first used in 1871, was stolen from a shop while on display in Birmingham following Aston Villa's triumph in 1895 and has never been seen again.
The cup that Sheikh Mansour has purchased is also the first trophy Manchester City ever won. They became the first professional club from the city to collect a major honour by beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 in the 1904 final. City's bid to win the competition for the seventh time begins on Sunday, when they host Birmingham City in the third round (stream LIVE at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.)
According to Bonhams, another of the lots available in the same auction was the vehicle licence plate "LFC1," which went for £125,000 ($170,000). It is not yet known if that has also been donated to a museum for posterity.
The trophy is now undoubtedly among the most expensive pieces of football memorabilia ever sold.
Many an interested eyebrow was raised in 2010 when Sir Geoff Hurst's World Cup-winning shirt was put on sale for £2.3m ($3.1m). Hurst wore the red England jersey while scoring his famous hat trick in a 4-2 victory over West Germany in the final at Wembley -- a prized piece in any collector's ensemble. However, the asking price proved a little on the steep side at the time and the jersey, which had fetched £91,750 ($124,773) at auction in 2000, has failed to sell on several subsequent occasions after the reserve price was not met.
West Ham have done their bit to preserve sanctified items of memorabilia on behalf of their former players, with the club purchasing two 1966 World Cup winners' items in the past to prevent them from slipping into private collections. Sir Bobby Moore's medal was bought as part of a £1.5m ($2.04m) private sale, and Hurst's medal was later also bought for an undisclosed sum reported to be around £150,000 ($204,000).
The record for a football shirt sale is Pele's 1970 World Cup final jersey, which fetched £157,750 ($214,528) at auction in 2002. Pele wore it in the second half of the final against Italy -- which makes us wonder how much more the shirt the Brazil legend wore in the first half while scoring his goal might be worth.
In 2016, a special replica of the Jules Rimet trophy fetched £395,000 ($537,001) at an auction of Brazil legend Pele's personal memorabilia. Pele was given the one-off trophy after Brazil's 1970 World Cup glory and it was purchased at an auction in London by Swiss watchmakers Hublot.
The three-day auction featured more than 2,000 items of personal memorabilia, has also seen two of Pele's three World Cup winner's medals sold. The forward's medal from his first World Cup victory in 1958 was sold for £200,000 ($271,860), while the other from his 1962 World Cup glory fetched £140,000 ($190,302).
Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest. These two men wrote the rules and laws for a new game and founded The World's First Football Club, Sheffield FC on the 24th of October in 1857#TheWorldsFirst 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/mXkFmPtBqB— Sheffield Football Club (@sheffieldfc) April 25, 2018
As things stand, the most expensive piece of football memorabilia ever to be sold at auction is a truly unique piece of the game's history -- the oldest known rulebook in existence. The handwritten "Sheffield Football Club Rules, Regulations & Laws" pamphlet, dating from 1857, was auctioned for £881,250 ($1.98m) in 2011. The rule book includes many of the laws that still exist in football today, with free-kicks, corners and crossbars all introduced for the first time.