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Paper napkin ‘contract’ which sealed Lionel Messi’s move to FC Barcelona sells for almost $1 million at auction

By Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — The paper napkin containing the agreement which saw Lionel Messi join FC Barcelona has sold for $966,400 (£762,400), auction house Bonhams said on Friday.

The napkin, which was signed to acquire the talents of then 13-year-old Messi in 2000, ultimately fetched a far higher amount than its original starting price of $380,000 (£300,000).

The commitment to a contract was written in blue ballpoint pen by Carles Rexach, the then sporting director of Barça, on the 6.5 x 6.5 inch napkin.

“In Barcelona, on December 14, 2000, in the presence of Mssrs. Minguella and Horacio, Carles Rexach, technical secretary of FC Barcelona, hereby agrees under his responsibility and against some dissenting opinions to sign the player Lionel Messi, provided that we keep to the amounts agreed,” Rexach wrote in Spanish.

The napkin is also signed by Horacio Gaggioli, the Argentine agent who first brought Messi to the attention of Barcelona, and Josep Minguella, the transfer advisor to the club at the time.

Together with Rexach, Minguella helped organize Messi’s initial audition with the Blaugrana in September 2000.

On December 14, Rexach, Minguella and Gaggioli met for lunch at the Pompeia tennis club to sign the napkin. Later that night, Joan Gaspart – Barcelona’s president at the time – confirmed and sealed the agreement, changing the history of football.

After graduating from the famed La Masia – Barça’s academy – Messi became one of the greatest players in history. He made his debut for the senior team in 2004, aged 16, becoming, at the time, the youngest player to represent the club in an official match.

It was the beginning of a legendary career, during which time he made 778 appearances for Barcelona, broke the club’s goalscoring record and won 35 trophies – including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

“Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi’s career,” Ian Ehling, the head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said in a statement.

“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.”

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This article was updated with the final sale prices and other details following the auction’s conclusion.

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