Here at Icons.com, we make a point to not only sign with the biggest superstars on the planet but to select the cream of the crop from the next generation as well, writes Sales Manager, Ben Soley.

After all, a lot can change in a year. Over the last 12 months, France displaced Germany as world champions, Luka Modric became the first man in 11 years to dethrone Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the World Player of the Year, and Liverpool qualified for a UEFA Champions League final… okay, so maybe not everything changes.

If you’re Callum Hudson-Odoi, the last year has seen you promoted to Chelsea’s first team; make your debut; start matches in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and Premier League, getting an assist on each debut; be constantly linked with a move to European behemoth Bayern Munich; and get your first senior England cap. Not forgetting, of-course, becoming an Icon.

It’s almost a year to the day that Callum became an Icon, conducting his first signing with us in London on May 14th, 2018. Since then his rise has been as rapid as he is. Indeed, his four goals in nine UEFA Europa League appearances puts him among the top scorers for the competition and is a clear indication of his undoubted quality. Over the same period, Hudson-Odoi has outsold traditional bestsellers on our website. Items signed by the Chelsea and England starlet have sold quicker and in more quantities than memorabilia signed by Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and many more established stars.

We’re regularly asked how we pick and choose who we sign for Icons.com. Hudson-Odoi’s talent is not questioned but of all the talented youngsters out there, we opted for Callum because he hit a sweet spot for us.

Firstly, he plays for a top-six team with a solid international fan base. Chelsea fans have been crying out for young talent to break through at their club so Callum’s rise presented us with the chance to provide that considerable supporter base with a name they are interested in. Our exclusive contract with Eden Hazard also means we have a strong database of Chelsea fans to target. He also fits in well with our licenses – as an Adidas player we can include Callum’s signed boots in our Official UEFA Europa League (an Adidas-sponsored tournament) range. As a member of the England setup, we can add his products to our Official England Licensed Memorabilia range. Finally, Callum has a social media presence and can promote his signing with Icons to help us sell his products.

In baseball, rookie trading cards are often valued higher based on the limit to supply – the player’s first year being the only year for which the athlete is considered a rookie. Babe Ruth’s 1916 rookie card sold for $717,000 at auction in 2016, in the same year ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson’s rookie card sold for $667,149. Mickey Mantle, another great of the game, has a rookie card from 1951 which is now worth a staggering $750,000.

But why? Many athletes’ rookie year isn’t spectacularly successful. An athlete’s appearance may also radically change and their rookie year look is rarely how they are best remembered. Perhaps this the point. For many collectors it boils down to the bragging rights, the idea that you can claim that you were there first, you saw that athlete’s potential earlier than anyone else and you saw something special in them from the off.

Then, of course, there is the financial benefit. It’s a textbook example of buying low and selling high. Last month, I wrote about women’s football and the importance of getting on board early as it explodes in popularity. This is much the same. In order to yield the biggest returns, you must get the item at its lowest cost value, and that is best done at the start before an athlete has achieved greatness in the eyes of everyone else.

Which brings us back to Icons and Callum Hudson-Odoi. To the untrained eye, it may look like we got lucky with Hudson-Odoi. But Icons have a proven track-record of finding stars among the youth. Sergio Aguero first signed for us while he was plying his trade at Atletico Madrid; Gareth Bale was still at Spurs when he signed for us first; Neymar Jr was at Santos. And then there’s the small matter of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, signed by Icons at 18 and 19-years-old respectively. Icons are in fact Messi’s longest serving commercial partner – longer even than Adidas.

You see, it’s one thing to get ahead in business, but to stay ahead you must look to the future. Admittedly, it’s not without its risks. But those risks are minimised by our staff’s extensive knowledge of sport and our acute sense of what will sell and what won’t.

I’ll leave you with this. Ajax’s former head of talent development Ruben Jongkind recently told the following story: “When FC Barcelona were so good and so dominant seven or eight years ago, I was walking with [Johan] Cruyff on the training ground at La Masia. He told me: ‘Everybody is looking at the first team and I am looking at the academy. Things are not right and they have to change.'”

We have the same mentality here at Icons.com. We never rest on our laurels and we are always looking to the future for the next set of superstars and Ballon d’Or winners.

We don’t just sign the Icons, we scout them too.