How Steve Hodge made £7.14MILLION from the Hand of God shirt

How former England midfielder Steve Hodge made £7.14MILLION from Diego Maradona’s Hand of God shirt… and transformed the market for football jerseys with Lionel Messi collection set to sell for £8m

  • Hodge sold Diego Maradona’s shirt last year having been involved in the goal
  • The price of football memorabilia has increased dramatically since the shirt sale
  • Trent and Bellingham can play together but can’t get in each other’s way – IAKO

With one deliberate swoosh of his left boot beneath a sizzling Mexican sun, England’s Steve Hodge inadvertently set in motion a chain of events that would make his future self a multi-millionaire, and enrich a sports memorabilia market into which Lionel Messi is the latest to venture.

What Hodge did on that day in 1986, and beyond, has led us to now, with Messi’s shirt collection from the 2022 World Cup set to fetch a world record of more than £8million when it goes to auction at Sotheby’s New York later this month.

But it was Hodge who raised the gold bar when, last year, he sold Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ jersey from the 1986 World Cup quarter-final. 

In an irony not lost on some of his England team-mates, it was from Hodge’s back-pass to Peter Shilton that the Argentina legend used his fist to score.

With a reserve of £4m when the shirt went under the hammer at Sotheby’s London, that figure was very quickly met. It remained the likely total with just minutes of the auction remaining. 

Steve Hodge sold Diego Maradona’s Hand of God shirt for £7.14million at an auction last year

Hodge played the pass back to Peter Shilton – before Maradona used his hand to score in 1986

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Lionel Messi’s 2022 World Cup jerseys are set to sell for a world record at over £8m at auction 

Then, to the delight of Hodge, amazement of those present and possible angst of some ex team-mates, a frenzy of ‘dark bidding’ took the sale to a world record £7.1m for an item of football memorabilia.

The buyer remains anonymous and, at least when it comes to this subject, so does Hodge. The dad of three, 61, politely declined Mail Sport’s invite to talk about it. We understand he has spent time in the Far East but continues to live in the East Midlands, working as a co-commentator on Nottingham Forest matches for local radio and working the corporate lounges at Leeds United, two of his old clubs.

Those close to Hodge say the newfound wealth has not changed him, and nor was it ever likely to according to Chris Waddle, who played in the 2-1 defeat at the Azteca Stadium.

‘People ask, ‘Why does he still go to work if he’s got millions?’,’ says Waddle. ‘Hodgey was just a normal, easy-going lad. He wasn’t extravagant. I remember at Spurs he had a Ford Mondeo. He used to drive down from Nottingham and back in a day. Everyone said, ‘Why don’t you get a BMW?’. He used to say, ‘I’m just not bothered’.’

But how did Hodge come to be in possession of a jersey that has transformed the landscape of football memorabilia at auction, and sent players of his era scrambling around their attics in search of treasure? Mark Wright recently listed a collection of his Italia 90 jerseys with a guide price of £200,000.

It was, in fact, Waddle and Hodge who were closest to Maradona on full-time. We have reviewed the BBC footage from the game and Hodge can be seen approaching the No 10, although there is no exchange of shirts.

Waddle says: ‘I remember he got it at the top of the tunnel. He waited, behind the goal, it was like a pathway down to the changing-rooms. Hodgey indicated to swap shirts and Maradona didn’t give a s*** really, he was like, ‘Yeah, have it’.’

Hodge’s version, from his autobiography ‘The Man With Maradona’s Shirt’, casts himself in a slightly more innocent light.

‘I went over to shake Maradona’s hand (on the pitch),’ he wrote, admitting the intention to get the blue jersey. ‘Chris Waddle was with him and he was being mobbed. It was bedlam all around him, so I didn’t bother. I just wished him all the best and walked away with Chris. I was asked for an interview by Gary Newbon which delayed me, and a couple of minutes later I walked off the pitch in my own world. I just happened to be walking down our tunnel as Maradona came walking along the Argentina tunnel. We looked at each other and I tugged my shirt. He nodded and so I did (get the shirt) – it was pure chance.’

Aware of the anger towards Maradona in the England dressing-room, Hodge slipped the shirt in his bag without saying a word. Maradona, meanwhile, swapped Hodge’s shirt with an Argentina team-mate, who had Gary Lineker’s jersey.

Hodge didn’t want to speak about the shirt when he was approached by Mail Sport… and team-mate Chris Waddle (pictured) said the now 61-year-old ‘was just a normal, easy-going lad’

Waddle said Maradona ‘wasn’t bothered’ about giving his shirt away and let Hodge have it

‘I can’t remember who I swapped with, but I had one,’ says Waddle. ‘I don’t even know if I’ve still got it. But I remember the quality was terrible. The badge was almost pinned on, not properly sewn. It was like they’d gone, ‘Oh s***, we’ve got no kit, what are we going to do?’.’

That, in fact, was true. Maradona said the official kit was too thick to wear given the heat and some plain blue jerseys were bought from a sports shop in Mexico City, with two local seamstresses sewing on the numbers and badge.

Hodge did not think a great deal of it either. He put it in a box in his attic and there it stayed until 2002. It was then that Pele’s 1970 World Cup final jersey sold for £157,000. Remarkably, at the time, this was a world record. Hodge realised his shirt might be worth something similar.

Still, he turned up for an appearance on Johnny Vaughan’s World Cup Extra that year with the top in a Tesco carrier bag, and only later got it insured on the advice of a member of the production team. There was a nervy moment when Frankie Dettori decided to pull it on, and Hodge watched as the threads were stretched to their limit. It was eventually housed in the National Football Museum in Preston until its sale.

The buyer of the shirt remains anonymous but the price of football memorabilia has boomed

‘I had to read it twice when I saw £7.1m!’ says Waddle. ‘It was just unbelievable.’

To give the figure some context, a hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte during his reign as French emperor brought a record £1.69m at auction in Paris this week.

But was there any resentment? Should Hodge have split the money with his team-mates, some of whom have fallen on hard times?

‘No!’ says Waddle. ‘Good luck to him. Nobody thought it would be sold for that amount in time. It’s like he’s won the lottery. I’d be very surprised if anyone in the group begrudges what he did. He got the shirt, well done. I’ve never heard anyone bicker about it.’

Anecdotally, however, we are told some do harbour a little irritation. John Barnes spoke about the sale on TNT Sports recently. It was delivered with a smile, as he said: ‘Seven million pounds later… but Hodgey didn’t get all of that. Sotheby’s took 20 per cent, so he only got £5.5m! That should have been my shirt! He never said anything to anyone (at the time). He came in and just put it in his bag.’

Waddle said that Hodge need not worry about splitting the money with his former team-mates

Hodge’s former room-mate, Peter Reid, joked that he could have been the one to get the shirt

Peter Reid, meanwhile, was Hodge’s room-mate. ‘I’m lying in my bed after the game and he says, ‘What do you think about that?’,’ Reid told the BBC, mimicking Hodge holding up the shirt. ‘He had smuggled it out, because it went off in the tunnel afterwards.

‘I was actually in London nearby when the auction was taking place, so I went to Sotheby’s. I had a look and went for a bevvy. I then saw that it went for £7.1m, and thought, ‘I could have had that!’. Saying that, I couldn’t catch Maradona, so fair dos to Hodgey!’

Incidentally, Maradona’s shirt from the 1986 final against West Germany was gifted back to Argentina last year by Lothar Matthaus, who had marked his opponent during the game.

I interviewed Matthaus shortly after. Was he not tempted to cash in on the back of Hodge’s sale?

‘No,’ he said. ‘In 36 years, I was never thinking, ‘I want money for this shirt’. It was a pleasure for me to give it back to the people of Argentina.’

Former Germany star Lothar Matthaus gifted Maradona’s 1986 final shirt back to Argentina

Matthaus can perhaps afford to be generous, while others of that generation can not. Hodge’s friends used to call Maradona’s shirt his ‘pension fund’.

Waddle, while talking to me on the phone, sets off around his Sheffield home, considering the value of the jerseys on his walls.

‘Desailly. Shearer. Gazza. Papin. Hagi, I love that one. Dragan Stojkovic. I’ve got 86 and 90 World Cup jerseys. My Marseille shirts. I’ve got the Andy Brehme West Germany semi-final shirt, so he must have mine when I missed the penalty in the shootout.’

That would be worth something, we agree, at least for Brehme. We talk about other famous England items, including Terry Butcher’s blood-soaked white jersey. Waddle cannot believe it when I tell him Butcher, shortly after the 1989 World Cup qualifier in Sweden, was persuaded by Radion to allow them to wash the shirt as part of a PR stunt.

Butcher later said: ‘It would be worth a lot more if I’d got it framed and had the blood on it. Saying that, it might have been a health hazard!’

Waddle has another Maradona story. ‘I remember Ossie Ardiles’ testimonial with Spurs, against Inter Milan,’ he begins. ‘Maradona turned up to play for us but with no boots. Lucky enough, Clive Allen was wearing a size 6 Puma, and that’s what Maradona needed.

He’s never looked at his own shirts as an investment – ‘They hang on the wall or sit in the loft’

‘As soon as Maradona got back in the changing-room, Clive was ripping the boots off his feet! He got him to sign the Puma logo. They’ll be worth a few quid today. I’m surprised I’ve never seen them on the circuit.’

Would you consider selling your shirts?

‘I’ve never looked at them as an investment,’ says Waddle. ‘In years to come, if someone said, ‘I can get you this amount for them’, I think a lot of people might be tempted. At the end of the day, they hang on the wall or sit in the loft.

‘My kids might have plans for mine. If you’ve got the number of the guys at Sotheby’s, I’ll give that to them!’


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