The 2021-2022 Donruss Soccer release has come out with much fanfare. As with any Donruss release, one of the first things we look for are the “Rated Rookies.” To help make sense of the new crop, we bring you an overview of the 2021-2022 Donruss Soccer Rated Rookies.
Many of the selections for this series are somewhat puzzling. First, they include many players older than we would typically expect from “rookie cards.” Meanwhile, many of the younger stars were not included in the series.
However, upon examining the checklist, it became abundantly clear what Panini’s criteria were. All of the players here had debuted for their national team in 2019 and onward. Therefore, they qualify as international rookies. Unfortunately, they have included a few late bloomers in their lineup. In addition, the qualification picture is still fluid. Therefore, some of the players may not appear at the World Cup.
Whatever we think of the checklist, it offers exciting young players worth collecting. Meanwhile, others are not worth heavy investment. So let’s separate the wheat from the chaff amongst the 2021-2022 Donruss Soccer Rated Rookies.
Buying into this release is not cheap. The boxes cost over $400 on eBay. The singles are not cheap either. So, which players are worthy of a hefty investment?
Not exactly a rookie, Uriel has already played for Manchester City and LA Galaxy before returning to his native country. Antuna is one of the fastest and most capable dribblers in the world. However, his passing and scoring capabilities have never developed the way scouts had hoped. Last year, the winger notched 6 goals in the Liga MX. However, with none so far in the current campaign, Antuna has yet to make the necessary leap.
Nonetheless, Uriel has a good chance of breaking out in the 2022 World Cup. He scored a hattrick (that is three goals for you casual soccer fans) against Cuba and scored in every round of the CONCACAF Cup. Since Antuna saves his best performances for the national team, he is worth keeping in a toploader until the tournament.
Roberto is the other promising Mexican national team winger. However, he is a highly versatile player with the ability to play in the center of the pitch as well as run the touchlines. Though not as fast as Antuna, Roberto is more refined and is a highly capable passer and somewhat effective finisher.
Alvarado is a strong prospect. I am pretty shocked that he has not been snapped up by a European club yet. However, when he does cross the pond, Roberto has all the tools to succeed. The winger is a regular for Mexico with 26 caps, so we expect his talents to be displayed in Qatar.
Getting his start in the Swedish second division as a teenager, Jens-Lys was soon snatched up by Danish powerhouse FC Midtjylland. At the age of 22, the midfielder is already highly experienced. Cajuste has appeared in the European Champions League and the Euro 2020 tournament for Sweden. He seems ready to make an impact at the highest level.
Jens-Lys will undoubtedly be an excellent player. Interest from Leeds United and other clubs means he will likely be in the high-profile Premier League soon. However, Cajuste is primarily a defensive player. While that is a lynchpin role for any team, players in those positions do not tend to have the most valuable cards.
I am stumped by the inclusion of Dubois in this release. Don’t get me wrong; he is a fine player and the captain of Lyon. However, a 27-year-old defender who is not assured of a spot as a starter in the World Cup is a very questionable investment. He is also far from being a rookie in any sense of the word.
Unlike some of the other Rated Rookies in this list, the Dutch player has proven his class at the very highest levels. Dumfries is an elite presence on the right side of the pitch. With 30 appearances and counting for the Oranje, the right-back is a perennial fixture in the starting eleven. However, if the Netherlands has a strong Qatar campaign, they will need the Inter Milan player at his absolute peak.
Having said all that, Dumfries may not be the best investment. He is already 25 and does not play in the most glamorous position. Denzel is a solid scorer, but he does not tend to score more than 5 goals a season, playing a nominally defensive role.
Nicholas has been playing in France since he was 15. However, he hails from Kansas City and has represented the United States since 2020. So far, the forward has played eight games for the USMNT and netted three goals in the process.
As an investment, Gioacchini checks off several important boxes. First, he is American, which usually leads to a nice card premium. In addition, Nicholas plays as a striker, which is (in theory at least) the sexiest position on the pitch. However, he has yet to score regularly at the highest levels. He played in the inferior Ligue 2 from 2019-2021 and has yet to net a goal in Ligue 1. Therefore, his talents remain unproven.
Josko is a wonderkid, amongst the top of the crop of under 20 players in Europe. He combines brute strength and technical ability, reminiscent of all-time greats such as Marcel Desailly.
Some of the biggest teams in the world, including Manchester City and Bayern Munich, have expressed interest in the services of the defender. To keep him, Leipzig offered Gvardiol a $16 million contract. At age 19, Josko has secured a starting role in the Croatian national team.
I am sure you can predict the caveat regarding Josko’s collectability. He is a defender, not one of the most glamorous positions out there. However, Gvardiol appears to be world-class, so his cards will likely have some value in the long term.
Luka was a big star for the Croatian U-21 team, breaking its appearance record with 27. His dribbling skills and durability are top-notch. Although Ivanusec will have to improve his passing game somewhat, there is no doubt the attacking midfielder has the class to make it at the top level.
Now is a good time to invest in Luka. He has yet to make the jump to one of the big leagues and hasn’t impressed in a big tournament. However, there is a very good chance he will do both.
There is no doubt that Juranovic is a skillful player. He has played commendably for Scottish powerhouse Celtic since signing in 2021. Josip has also become a regular for the strong Croatian national team in recent years.
However, the sports card market for a 26-year-old right-back who does not play in one of the top leagues is limited. So even if Juranovic gets a contract at a top team, which is quite possible, his cards will never be worth much.
Though still young, Jesper is a proven goal scorer. He scored 26 top-level goals in Sweden and 18 since the move to the Netherlands. Karlsson is adept at any attacking position and is therefore tactically invaluable.
One problem is that Jesper has yet to translate his prodigious attacking abilities to international. In his six caps for Sweden, the diminutive attacker has yet to score once. However, he put in stellar performances for the U-21 team, and we believe it is only a matter of time before he leads the Swedish attack.
Old-fashioned strikers are out of fashion in modern soccer. But the goal-poaching abilities of Macias will always be helpful.
Jose has scored 36 goals in the Mexican Liga MX. However, the striker has always been at his best when representing his country. He was the top scorer in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, with a haul of 10. In addition, he hit the ground running for the senior team, with 4 in his first five performances.
Jose has that “it” factor that allows him to show his best on the big stage. Therefore, he is an excellent investment leading up to the big kickoff in Qatar.
After breaking into the Lech Poznan team in 2020, Jakub quickly became the lynchpin of the side’s midfield. The creative player helped Poznan to the league runner-up spot and the UEFA Europa League qualification. Moreover, he proved to have a keen eye for goal, scoring 11 in 63 games in the Polish league.
In 2020 he moved to Brighton and held down a starting role for the Premier League team. However, he has not been able to bring the same level of dominance to the English arena yet.
Moder played a role in the Polish Euro 2020 campaign. He is likely to build on his contribution and play a key part in Qatar’s strong Poles. Nonetheless, I am not convinced he is quite talented enough to be a strong collection option.
Martinelli needs no introduction if you have been following the Premier League this season. The young forward has been instrumental in Arsenal’s resurgence as one of the best teams in England.
The tremendous talent Gabriel possessed made him a sought-after commodity. While playing for lower league Ituano, he held trials for Manchester United, Barcelona, and Arsenal. He signed with the London club in 2019 and made an immediate impact. Though still a teenager, Martinelli broke into the first team and has held his place. So far, he has scored 9 Premier League goals. However, that tally will increase significantly over time.
Martinelli is a brilliant young player. He is also flashy and existing, so he seems like a solid investment prospect. My only concern is that the forward is unlikely to be in the Brazilian first team in Qatar. However, the odds are that Martinelli will break into the Seleção Canarinho eventually.
Lucas Martinez Quarta is one hell of a defender. The Argentine is a thoroughly modern center-back, as comfortable creating and dribbling as when tackling and marking. However, he does not neglect the traditional responsibilities of the defender. Quarta is equally commanding on the ground and in the air.
The defender was nurtured by River Plate, arguably the most prestigious team in Argentina. Last year, he was purchased by Fiorentina. Lucas has proved up to the task of competing in the defensive-minded Serie A.
Though he only broke into the Argentine national team recently, Quarta is now a fixture in the starting eleven. Indeed, he was selected as man of the match in his debut against Ecuador in 2019. However, despite his many remarkable qualities, Quarta is a defender and a somewhat late bloomer at that. Therefore, his collectability prospects are diminished by both facts.
Nuno is an absolute prodigy. At age 18, he became the youngest player to break into the Sporting Lisbon starting team since one Cristiano Ronaldo made the team in 2003. Not long after, he emerged as a fixture in the senior Portuguese national team.
Most young players are loaned to small teams to gain experience. However, Mendes was loaned to PSG, one of the biggest clubs in the world. The youngster has managed to break into the team and cooperate fruitfully with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Typically, defensive players are not great card investments. However, Mendes may just be the exception. His talent and high profile may place him in that rare category of legendary defensive stars (think Paolo Maldini or Roberto Carlos).
The selection of Normann as a rated rookie is a bit puzzling. He is not exactly a youngster anymore. And while he is now playing on the big stage of the Premier League, Norwich City is not exactly the big time.
Normann is now an essential member of the Norwegian national team. However, they have not qualified for the World Cup. Mathias is a defensively-minded player, and his cards will never have much value.
Raspadori is the quick and technical forward that Italy has always excelled at creating. His ability to play in just about any attacking position is a very valuable trait for a modern player. The Sassuolo forward is also two-footed, adding to his value and versatility.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini recognized the forwards’ talent and versatility. As a result, Raspadori received his first cap in 2021 and scored his debut goal against Lithuania.
It is hard to say if Raspadori will pan out as a top-level attacker. However, there is undoubtedly a compelling chance that the Italian will have a glorious career.
Bryan is a very talented youngster, but he has not been able to break into the first team at AS Roma. Coach Jose Mourinho has referred to him as “a kid,” which is not a particularly promising sign. So the chances are that Reynolds will head elsewhere, even if only on loan, soon.
However, from a collector’s perspective, Reynolds’ main advantage is his American nationality. Therefore, if Bryan can break into the US team and become a dependable performer, his cards will have good value.
So, how is he doing on that front? In March 2021, Brian was awarded his first cap for the USMNT. However, he has not appeared since. And without more playing time, the right-back is unlikely to play in Qatar. On the other hand, he may yet be an essential part of the 2026 World Cup squad. But the jury is out on this promising player.
Jordan was born in Washington DC but grew up in France. Nonetheless, he elected to play for the United States in 2021. It is a good thing Pefok did for two reasons. First, let’s face it, he is unlikely to play for the world-beating French team. Second, it raises his profile in the collecting world considerably.
But how good is the striker? The scoring haul measures that position and Jordan has proven no slouch in that regard. In his three years in Ligue 1 with Reims, the striker netted 20 times in 69 appearances. Meanwhile, in two years with Young Boys Bern, he scored 23 goals and is among the most impressive players in the Swiss league this season.
Pefok has yet to earn a starting berth in the US national team. However, his winner against Honduras in June 2021 helped Jordan’s claim. There is stiff competition for positions up front in Qatar, but the striker has the quality to figure in the USMNT’s plans.
The young Korean forward has made a strong impression in his first few years as a starter in the K League. Scoring 19 goals in 72 appearances and attracting the attention of Celtic and other major European clubs. However, his main strength is playmaking, and he led the top Korean league in assists in 2018.
In June 2021, Song debuted for the South Korean national team. He has since cemented his place as an essential cog in the national setup. So I imagine it is only a matter of time before the versatile player gets a big move to Europe.
Alexander is a fine player with an impressive scoring record. His 13 goals in 2015 for Bodø/Glimt and his 24 goal haul for Trabzonspor in 2019-2020 are particularly notable. Due to his fine scoring form, Sorloth often partners with megastar Erling Haaland for the Norwegian national team.
However, Sorloth has not translated his abilities to succeed at the highest level. In recent years, he has played in both the Bundesliga and LaLiga to limited effect. Even if he makes that jump, I don’t see the forward being a collectible star. Norway has failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup to make things worse.
It should also be noted that Sorloth has a reputation as a problematic player with an unprofessional attitude. None of this bodes well.
Calvin Stengs is the real thing. The deadly efficiency of the Dutch winger is no secret, and scouts throughout Europe have been following his progress for years. He takes the ball into the box several times a game, and defenders never know if he will pass, dribble or shoot. Stengs is simply a menace.
In 78 performances for AZ, Calvin hit the back of the net on 15 occasions. In 2021, Nice purchased and made his debut for the Oranje. He may be the surprise star for the Dutch in Qatar. But even if he isn’t, Stengs will have more chances to impress.
Karol has been a reliable scorer in the Polish league with Jagiellonia Białystok and Greece for PAOK. Overall, Swiderski has 48 topflight goals in his young career, an impressive tally. Since debuting for Poland in 2021, he has proved a valuable addition to the squad with 6 goals in 14 appearances.
However, there is a downside to collecting Swiderski’s cards. The Polish forward has yet to play in a truly elite league, and we don’t know if he can excel at that level. It is also (as of now) unclear if Poland will qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Vinas seems on the verge of becoming a world-class left-back. AS Roma brought the player in 2021 after an impressive stint for Brazilian powerhouse Palmeiras. Matias is the epitome of a modern full-back, dominating the touchline and cutting inside on offense and defense.
Although I have nothing but respect for the player, he is not a good investment. Vina is a defender, and Uruguay will not qualify for Qatar. Matias will likely have a great career, but collecting worthy superstardom will probably elude the versatile defender.
Another day, another left-back. But seriously, Owen is a menacing left-back who will likely go far in the modern game. He also seems very close to a move to a top team, with Juventus leading the chasing pack.
What about his prospects in Qatar? Wijndal is already a regular for the Oranje, and they will likely provide a glorious stage for his talents. Still, the youngster is a defensive player, and we already know what that means.
Here are the complete checklists for the rookie sets in the 2021-22 Donruss Soccer Road to Qatar release.
176 Lucas Martinez Quarta – Argentina
177 Leo Dubois – France
178 Denzel Dumfries – Netherlands
179 Jakub Moder – Poland
180 Mathias Normann – Norway
181 Bryan Reynolds – United States
182 Gabriel Martinelli – Brazil
183 Jose Macias – Mexico
184 Josip Juranovic – Croatia
185 Josko Gvardiol – Croatia
186 Calvin Stengs – Netherlands
187 Giacomo Raspadori – Italy
188 Karol Swiderski – Poland
189 Min-kyu Song – Korea Republic
190 Nicholas Gioacchini – United States
191 Jens-Lys Cajuste – Sweden
192 Nuno Mendes – Portugal
193 Alexander Sorloth – Norway
194 Jordan Siebatcheu – United States
195 Roberto Alvarado – Mexico
196 Matias Vina – Uruguay
197 Owen Wijndal – Netherlands
198 Uriel Antuna – Mexico
199 Jesper Karlsson – Sweden
200 Luka Ivanusec – Croatia
PARALLEL CARDS: Press Proof, Press Proof Black 1/1.
1 Gabriel Martinelli – Brazil
2 Luka Ivanusec – Croatia
3 Gonzalo Montiel – Argentina
4 Denzel Dumfries – Netherlands
5 Domagoj Bradaric – Croatia
6 Mathias Normann – Norway
7 Nicholas Gioacchini – United States
8 Calvin Stengs – Netherlands
9 Gerardo Arteaga – Mexico
10 Kamil Piatkowski – Poland
11 Jesper Karlsson – Sweden
12 Gabriel Barbosa – Brazil
13 Cesar Montes – Mexico
14 Jhon Lucumi – Colombia
15 Nuno Mendes – Portugal
16 Andres Perea – United States
17 Jakub Moder – Poland
18 Jurrien Timber – Netherlands
19 Owen Wijndal – Netherlands
20 Bryan Reynolds – United States
PARALLEL CARDS: Press Proof, Press Proof Black 1/1.
1 Calvin Stengs – Netherlands
2 Zinho Vanheusden – Belgium
3 Alexander Sorloth – Norway
4 Uriel Antuna – Mexico
5 Carlos Rodriguez – Mexico
6 George Bello – United States
7 Josko Gvardiol – Croatia
8 Kristoffer Ajer – Norway
9 Matias Vina – Uruguay
10 Jordan Siebatcheu – United States
11 Kamil Piatkowski – Poland
12 Domagoj Bradaric – Croatia
13 Nuno Mendes – Portugal
14 Owen Wijndal – Netherlands
15 Bryan Reynolds – United States
16 Gabriel Barbosa – Brazil
17 Denzel Dumfries – Netherlands
18 Jens-Lys Cajuste – Sweden
19 Moon-hwan Kim – Korea Republic
20 Leo Dubois – France
The checklist is somewhat weak, including many late bloomers and wing-backs from mediocre leagues. However, this product is already a hit. Therefore, the Rated Rookies of some of these players will be their definitive cards. In particular, we recommend you look at Calvin Stengs and Gabriel Martinelli. However, try to get an alternative to the base 2021-2022 Donruss Soccer Rated Rookies. Numbered parallels, pressed proof, or autos will do the trick. These cards are more likely to maintain value in the long term.