Lionel Messi’s first Barcelona contract, signed on napkin, for sale at auction

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The napkin on which Lionel Messi’s first Barcelona deal was informally written has gone up for sale at auction.

Bonhams – a private, London-based international auction house – is organizing the auction until May 17, with a starting price of £220,000 ($274.55k), on behalf of Argentine player agent Horacio Gaggioli.

The agreement was reached on December 14, 2000, when Barcelona director Carles Rexach desperately hoped that the club would sign Messi, then 13 years old.

Messi had impressed during his two-week trial with Barcelona in September 2000, but the club were initially reluctant to sign such a young, non-European player.

Rexach was concerned that the Catalan club would miss out on the signing of Messi, who had returned to his hometown of Rosario in Argentina.

Gaggioli told it The Athletics Last year he told Rexach in December 2000 that if they could not commit to signing Messi, the teenager would be offered to other clubs, including Real Madrid.

Rexach invited Gaggioli to dinner in Barcelona to make a final decision on Messi, but there was one problem: Rexach did not have time to draw up or print a contract, but needed the relevant signatures on a document that would later become legally binding.

His solution was to take a napkin and write down contractual words, which would then be signed by the relevant parties, to indicate a legal commitment.


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The napkin read: “In Barcelona, ​​​​on December 14, 2000, and in the presence of Mr. (the agent, Josep Maria) Minguella and Horacio (Gaggioli), Carles Rexach, technical secretary of FCB, commits under his responsibility, despite the views of others who are against signing Lionel Messi, as long as the agreed fees are maintained.”

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Rexach signed the napkin together with football agents Minguella – who had worked on several Barcelona deals in the past, including Diego Maradona – and Gaggioli.

“This is one of the most exciting items I have ever handled,” said Ian Ehling, head of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams New York. “Yes, it is a paper napkin, but it is the famous napkin that marked the beginning of Lionel Messi’s career.

“It changed the life of Messi, the future of FC Barcelona, ​​and was instrumental in bringing some of football’s most glorious moments to billions of fans around the world.”

Messi made his Barcelona debut in 2004 and scored 672 goals for the club in 778 games before leaving in 2021 (Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

Messi made his Barcelona debut in 2004 and scored 672 goals for the club in 778 games before leaving in 2021 (Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

Years later, Gaggioli called it a “miraculous moment” in his commentary on the event.

“That napkin broke the deadlock,” he added.

“My lawyers have looked into it. The napkin had everything: my name, his name, the date. It has been notarized. It was a legal document.

“It will remain a part of me for the rest of my life. The napkin will always be by my side. I live in Andorra and I kept the napkin in a safe at a bank.’

On Wednesday, Minguella told Catalunya Radio that the napkin had been in his office for years and that he had offered Barcelona the opportunity to display it in the club’s museum.

He claims he has received no response from Barcelona and will now ask lawyers to find out who is the legal owner of the napkin and how someone can prove he or she legally owns it in order to put it up for sale.

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Minguella has insisted that he does not want to profit from the napkin, but would prefer to see it in Barcelona’s museum, or if it is sold, the money would go to the club’s foundation.

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(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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