Auction of “the world’s most famous napkin” used to sign 13-year-old Lionel Messi at Barcelona will start at $380K

The Argentine superstar, Lionel Messi, is widely hailed as the greatest player of all time. He cemented his name at the peak of the sport after securing the highly coveted World Cup title and was subsequently crowned the Ballon d’Or winner in November 2023, winning his record-eighth award.

Messi’s global popularity and unmatched fame stand as testaments to his sporting achievements, which are unparalleled. Recently, the famous napkin on which Lionel Messi signed his first contract for Barcelona has transcended into a collectible, becoming a symbol of his enduring legacy and setting new records in the realm of sports memorabilia.

Napkin promising Lionel Messi’s Barcelona contract to be auctioned off

Collectible articles related to Lionel Messi often go up for auction, fetching whopping bids, and are among the most sought-after items by those who want to own a piece of their favorite player’s legacy. Items personally signed by him, such as his golden left foot, the Qatar World Cup jersey, and final match tickets.

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The napkin on which the Ballon d’Or winner signed his first-ever contract with Barcelona in 2000 is set to be auctioned off in a virtual auction, with the initial price reportedly set at $380,000. The online auction will take place from March 18th to March 27th.

The napkin is framed and kept as a showpiece in the Bonhams auction display and the British auction house Bonhams will be selling the memorabilia on behalf of Horacio Gaggioli, an agent who was also part of the deal. 

The piece of cloth is considered the most important piece of Messi’s legacy at Camp Nou, where he established himself as the best player ever to grace the field for the club. During his tenure at Barcelona, the 36-year-old spent more than two decades, during which he amassed countless trophies, scored an extraordinary number of goals, and shattered numerous records.

Why did Lionel Messi sign his contract on a napkin?

One of the most fascinating stories in sports history occurred in late 2000 when Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli drew the attention of Barcelona Sporting Director Carles Rexach towards a 13-year-old wonderkid, Lionel Andrés Messi, an exceptional talent from Newell’s Old Boys’ academy.

Rexach was immediately impressed with Messi’s talent, but there was a technical delay from the club’s end in preparing the legal papers, which made Messi’s father skeptical of the deal. To assure Jorge Messi, Rexach instantly secured Messi’s signature on an agreement written on a napkin.

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The agreement reads, “In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000, and in the presence of Messrs Minguella and Horacio, Carles Rexach, FC Barcelona’s sporting director, hereby agrees, under his responsibility and regardless of any dissenting opinions, to sign the player Lionel Messi, provided that we keep to the amounts agreed upon.” 

This napkin essentially solidified the agreement and signed Messi to FC Barcelona on the spot. Later, keeping his promise to Messi’s dad, the Barca sporting chief prepared the official paperwork and all the legal formalities for the official admission of the Argentine into the prestigious La Masia academy.


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