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Historic Messi Napkin listed with £300,000 starting bid


A napkin on which Lionel Messi was promised a contract by FC Barcelona.
Image courtesy of Bonhams

Can a napkin be worth £300,000? Maybe, if it has Lionel Messi’s name on it, along with some of the most important text in the history of football.

The napkin is the one on which a 13-year-old Messi was first tied to FC Barcelona.

The text, in Spanish, 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.”

And so began a relationship that brought in 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey wins, and four UEFA Champions League crowns.

The napkin is being sold by Bonhams online from March 18th to 27th.

The seller is Horacio Gaggioli, an Argentinian football agent. His name is on the napkin, he introduced Messi to Barca, alongside that of Carles Rexach, a coach for the club and Josep Minguella, their transfer advisor.

And the opening price for the napkin is £300,000.

It’s significant that this deal was initially scrawled, in blue ink, at a restaurant table.

A set of Messi shirts was just sold for more than $7 million.

Messi could easily have left Barcelona. Despite the talent that had been obvious from a very young age, his height was an issue, and not everyone at Barca was a believer.

But this paper promise was enough. A more formal contract offer came later the same day.

How will this unusual document fair as a collectible though?

It is hard to find precedents for such a sale.

Ian Ehling, of Bonhams New York says of the napkin: “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.”

Messi is by most estimates the greatest footballer ever. He has eight Ballon d’Or’s, the games top personal award, and completed his trophy haul in 2022 with a FIFA World Cup for Argentina.

Artefacts of his career are very valued. A set of shirts from that glorious world cup campaign sold in December for $7.8 million.

But, this document, which doesn’t even feature the star’s own signature, is much harder to judge. Football enthusiasts and collectors will watch this sale with interest, and it’s possible that the piece will end up in a museum collection.

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