Messi’s napkin contract promise sells for £762,400



The napkin on which Barcelona committed to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi has been sold at auction for £762,400. The starting price was £300,000 for the ‘standard Spanish waxy napkin’, which measures 16.5 x 16.5 cm and was laminated and framed.

Signed in blue ink in December 2000, the napkin bears a pledge from then Barcelona director Carles Rexach to sign Messi. It was also signed by Josep Minguella, a transfer adviser to the Spanish club, and agent Horacio Gaggioli, who recommended the Argentine youngster. The napkin was offered in an online auction by London-based Bonhams on behalf of Gaggioli.

Messi joined Barcelona a month after the deal was agreed and went on to become their record goalscorer, with many considering him the greatest player of all time. He made his first-team debut at age 16 and scored a record 672 goals in 778 games for the Catalan club. Messi won 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League four times at Barcelona before leaving for Paris St-Germain in 2021. The 36-year-old World Cup winner now plays for Inter Miami.

The napkin was signed at a meeting arranged by Rexach, who invited Messi’s father Jorge to lunch after the Messi family expressed concerns about a lack of response from Barcelona following the teenager’s initial trial. Translated into English, the napkin 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.”

Ian Ehling, head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, commented, “Since the sale was first announced, it captured international attention and fans all over the world have anticipated this day. What a wonderful result for one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled. Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi’s career. 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.”

Bonhams addressed concerns about the ownership of the napkin, stating, “Allegations concerning the ownership of the napkin were raised in March but have not been substantiated and appear from recent press comment to have been retracted.” The auction house added, “The consignor of the napkin has received a legal opinion which confirms to them that they have clear title and the right to sell the napkin under Spanish law, and the seller gives a full warranty of title with the sale.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *