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Lionel Messi 'napkin contract,' which sold for £600,000 ($759,685, or $972,400 with buyer's premium) at Bonhams.

Lionel Messi ‘napkin contract’ tops $972K at Bonhams

LONDON — The napkin contract signed by 13-year-old Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona sold for £600,000 ($759,685, or $972,400 with buyer’s premium) at Bonhams on May 17 (estimated at £300,000-£500,000, or $380,000-$633,450) in a timed online auction.

There was a flurry of bidding in the final five scheduled minutes of the sale, taking it from below the low estimate to its final hammer price.

Laminated and framed, the napkin measures 6.5 by 6.5in (16.5 by 16.5 cm) and is signed by FC Barcelona’s then-sporting director Carles Rexach; agent Josep Minguella who was responsible for Messi’s trial in Spain; and Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli. The latter was the consigner.

Messi arrived in Barcelona from Rosario in September 2000, but it was not until December 14 that Barcelona sporting director Rexach finally penned the contract at Pompeia tennis club in Barcelona. The football club was hesitant to sign a player they considered too small, but with mounting pressure from Messi’s father Jorge, Rexach took matters into his own hands and asked the waiter for paper. Instead, he was given a napkin on which to outline the commitment.

In translation, the napkin reads: “In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and 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.”

“It’s astonishing how a humble object – a paper napkin – can convey a pivotal moment in footballing history,” Bonhams director Ian Ehling told the Antiques Trade Gazette. “This piece of paper gave the reassurance to the Messi family that FC Barcelona was serious about signing 13-year-old Lionel. It changed the life of Messi, the future of FC Barcelona, and was instrumental in giving some of the most glorious moments of football to billions of fans around the globe.

“The item is being sold now because the owner who has been its guardian for more than 20 years hopes it will inspire future generations of football fans.”

Messi has gone on to win more Ballon d’Ors than any other player in history, and scored more goals in La Liga as well as the most assists in that league.