Mauricio Benitez has etched out a reputation as ‘Mr Bling’.
And the Colombian artist has earned his nickname after supplying top stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi with eye-catching pieces.
Benitez has made his mark creating portraits with Swarovski crystals since 2010 and shot to fame in 2013 when he supplied Barcelona icon Messi with a portrait.
The glitzy piece he created of the Argentinian celebrating a goal went viral and was said to be worth £34million as he posed with Messi after gifting him the one-off piece free of charge.
Since then, he has raked in the cash, being contacted by Messi’s rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, to supply three pieces of artwork.
Diego Maradona, David Beckham, Neymar, Paul Pogba and Ronaldinho have also been immortalised in pieces from Benitez, which usually cost between £80,000 and £150,000 and are hand made crystal by crystal.
Benitez explained to The Sun how he gifted Messi the artwork due to his admiration of him as a player when he visited Medellin for a charity game in 2013.
It took him 30 days to make and featured around 150,000 crystals.
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He said: ”He didn't pay anything for it, but when the story leaked online there was a report it was worth $50million.
"That news went around the world, and helped put my name on the map for sports stars."
Ronaldo then came calling after meeting the artist with Juan Cuadrado, then a team-mate at Juventus.
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"To be honest, I was shocked that he contacted me personally,” he said after Ronaldo messaged him on WhatsApp.
Among three pieces made for the Portuguese icon is a one of his legendary overhead kick for Real Madrid against Juventus, standing at seven-and-a-half feet tall and including around 250,000 crystals.
He has also supplied two family portraits which are in his mother’s house in Madeira.
It is not just pictures that Benitez puts into crystallised form – he also makes footballs.
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Diego Maradona received a crystallised version of the 1986 World Cup ball, whilst David Beckham received one to commemorate his time at Real Madrid and Ronaldinho purchased a ball.
Neymar also received a special crystal football including team badges and meaningful dates in a Brazilian theme.
Benitez is currently working on a project for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar, who has an eye-catching shirt and boot montage from Benitez on his wall currently.
"Neymar told me that he saw my art on Instagram and liked it immediately,” he added.
Paul Pogba is another customer – but it is a piece for former Inter Milan player Fredy Guarin which is his proudest work.
Footballers spend between £80,000 and £150,000 on his pieces, but they are all hand made crystal by crystal.
"What was cool about it was that those individual details really stand out from the wall in the portrait,” he added.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- David Beckham
- Lionel Messi
- Paul Pogba
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