The napkin that secured Lionel Messi’s first transfer to FC Barcelona will be auctioned in March, starting at a price of £300,000 (€350,000).
On December 14, 2000, amidst internal concerns and hesitations FC Barcelona regarding the signing of a 13 year old Lionel Messithe club’s then sporting director, Carles Rexach, took decisive action.
While out to lunch at the Pompeia tennis club in Barcelona and having just received a frantic call from Messi’s father, Jorge, threatening to take his son back to Argentina, Rexach improvised and grabbed the only tool available nearby: a humble paper napkin.
On that napkin he hastily sketched out an agreement that would change the course of football history forever.
The written contract, scrawled with the signatures of Rexach, Josep Minguella (the instrumental advisor in Messi’s journey from South America) and Horacio Gaggioli (the Argentine agent who shaped the deal), proved to be the genesis of Messi’s professional career of Messi.
The boy from Rosario scored 672 goals in 778 games for the Spanish club, secured eight Ballon d’Ors in his career and consolidated his status as arguably the greatest footballer to ever grace the sport.
Now, the historic napkin will be available to private bidders in March at the British auction house Bonhamat a starting price of £300,000 (€351,000).
The most famous napkin in the world
“This is one of the most exciting objects I have ever handled,” said Ian Ehling, head of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams New York.
“Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that marked the beginning of Messi’s career. It changed Messi’s life, Barca’s future, and was instrumental in providing some of football’s most glorious moments to billions of people. fans all over the world.”
Since his signature, the napkin, which measures only 16.5 x 16.5 cm, has remained the property of Gaggioli, kept in a vault in Andorra.
The contract on the napkin, marked in blue ink, reads: “In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and in the presence of Minguella and Horacio, Carles Rexach, sporting director of FC Barcelona, accepts, under his responsibility and independently of any dissenting opinions, to sign the player Lionel Messi, provided that the agreed amounts are respected.”
Rexach recalled to ESPN in a 2020 interview: “I told Jorge (Messi’s father) that there was my signature and that there were witnesses, that with my name I would take direct responsibility, not there was nothing else to talk about and be patient for a few days because Leo could already consider himself a Barça player”.
The online auction for the napkin will take place from March 18th to 27th.