This Napkin May Fetch Nearly $400K at Auction

Impromptu document was the first 'contract' for 13-year-old Lionel Messi
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2024 4:10 PM CST
13-Year-Old Messi's Contract, Signed on a Napkin, on Block
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi, right, is challenged by El Salvador's Darwin Cer?n during a friendly soccer match at the Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Jan. 19.   (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Back in December 2000, Lionel Messi and his family were a little concerned that they hadn't heard anything in a while from FC Barcelona about signing the prodigy. So a lunch meeting was arranged among the player's father, Jorge; an agent; and club officials, the BBC reports. The FC Barcelona officials evidently brought a desire to sign the 13-year-old but no contract. So the terms were written on a napkin at the Pompeia Tennis Club in Barcelona, it was duly signed, and Messi went on score 672 goals in 778 games for the team. That piece of soccer history is going to auction in March, with the bids starting at $380,000.

There was hesitation about signing the teenager who'd just moved from Argentina, partly over his age and height, per Time. The napkin text acknowledges that, noting that Barcelona's Carles Rexach was agreeing to sign the player "against some dissenting opinions." The head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, which is handling the sale, called the contract "one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled," saying the 6.5-inch-square napkin is more significant than it looks.

"Yes, it's a paper napkin, but it's the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi's career," Ian Ehling said, per CNN. "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 now plays for Inter Miami in Florida, where he's a hit. (Jerseys worn by Messi in World Cup play brought $7.8 million at auction last month.)

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