Get ready for a napkin to become one of the most expensive sports memorabilia auctioned off. That's right, private British auction house Bonhams plans to host bids for Lionel Messi's initial contract, as written on a restaurant napkin. Prices start off at $382,150 (£300,000).
What happened? Twenty-four years ago, Messi's father, Jorge, was on the verge of taking his then 13-year-old son back to Argentina. Jorge had grown frustrated with negotiations and contacted Barcelona's sports director, Carles Rexach, to let him hear it.
Fortunately for Rexach, he took prompt action. Sitting alongside Messi's advisors Josep Minguella and Horacio Gaggioli, Messi's agent, Rexach scripted together a rough contract on a paper napkin.
How a napkin sealed Messi's fate back in 2000
“That was when, thinking on my feet, I decided everything,” recalled Rexach, who inked the deal at a Barcelona tennis club.
“Why a napkin? Because it was the only thing I had available to hand. I saw the only way to relax Jorge was signing something, giving him some proof, so I asked for a napkin from the waiter.
“I wrote: ‘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.'
“I told Jorge that my signature was there and that there were witnesses, that with my name I would take direct responsibility, there was nothing else to talk about and to be patient for a few days because Leo could already consider himself a Barca player.”
Barcelona's club museum, located on the grounds of Camp Nou, intended to showcase the history piece. But the club embarrassingly failed to broker a deal with Gaggioli. Messi's shocking 2021 departure dented relations between the club and Messi's business side.
But we still feel certain that Barcelona's current President, Joan Laporta, will make one of the leading bids to bring the napkin home to serenade Barcelona's most legendary player.
The record-setting eight-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi scored 672 goals in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, also providing 305 assists. His Barca trophy closet includes ten La Liga titles, 7 Copa del Rey, and four Champions League trophies.
What is the moral of the story? Never doubt the endurance and longevity of a paper napkin, especially in the age of information overload.
What is the current relationship between Messi's business side and Barcelona club?
FC Barcelona is planning a special tribute for Lionel Messi in 2024. The event intends to honor Messi's incredible career at the club and mend the relationship following his departure in 2021. The tribute plans to feature a Lionel Messi Barca Legends XI team against a World XI to coincide with the club's 125th anniversary on November 29, 2024.