Lionel Messi contract napkin sells for staggering amount at auction

  • Napkin which contained terms for Lionel Messi's move to Barcelona has been sold
  • Item carries pledge from Carles Rexach for Catalan giants to sign Argentina legend
  • Messi became a legend at Camp Nou
The contract that took Messi to Barca has been sold at an auction
The contract that took Messi to Barca has been sold at an auction / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

A napkin on which Barcelona pledged to sign a teenage Lionel Messi has been sold for over £700,000.

The small piece of football history, which helped the Catalan giants sign the Argentina legend back in 2000, was auctioned at a starting price of £300,000 by Bonhams.

Messi, aged only 13 at the time, had been on trial with Barca but his father Jorge had reportedly grown frustrated with the club's lack of movement in offering a contract.

Carles Rexach, then Barca's sporting director, stepped in by unconventionally scribbling terms on the 16.5cm by 16.5cm napkin at the Pompeia tennis club in the presence of transfer advisor Josep Minguella and Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli. The deal was later ratified by Barca president Joan Gaspart.

The text on 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, said: "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.

The "Napkin Agreement" That Brought Lionel Messi To Barcelona Is Displayed At Bonham Prior To Its Auction
The impromptu contract sold for over £700,000 / Pierre Suu/GettyImages

"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."

There had been disputes over the ownership of the napkin prior to the auction, but Bonhams declared such allegations had "not been substantiated and appear from recent press comment to have been retracted".

They 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. A copy of the opinion will be provided on request to any bidder approved to participate in this sale."