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Lionel Messi's first Barcelona contract napkin auction starts in London

Published at :May 9, 2024 at 9:38 PM
Modified at :May 9, 2024 at 9:38 PM
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Rajarshi Shukla

The Argentine signed his first contract for Barcelona

The renowned serviette that catapulted Lionel Messi into his 13-year-old Barcelona career is up for auction this week, with an example estimate ranging between £300,000 and £500,000 ($374,700 and $624,500).

The artefact is up for bid for £220,000, and it will be available through the British auctioneers Bonhams until May 17.

A disagreement about who should own the napkin—which has been owned by Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli for the past 20 years—caused the sale, which was originally scheduled for March, to be delayed.

After learning that the serviette would be up for sale earlier this year, Josep Minguella—an additional advisor who was involved in the negotiations to bring Messi from Argentina—claimed ownership of it.

Gaggioli denied this, but Bonhams told ESPN that the serviette, which is identified as “property of Horacio Gaggioli” on their website, was sold with “no problems.” Gaggioli disagreed.

ESPN asked Minguella for a statement, but she hasn’t responded. In 2000, when Messi’s dad, Jorge, started to question Barça’s dedication to his son, the team’s director of football at the moment, Carles Rexach, hurriedly drew up a serviette agreement.

Rexach, Minguella—who had assisted in bringing Messi over from South America—and Gaggioli—who assisted in arranging the transaction and acted as a guarantee for the original contract—signed it.

Ever since, Gaggioli has kept it in a safe deposit box in Andorra, the Principality located north of Barcelona and bounded by France and Spain.

In the past, talks to include it in Barça’s museum at the team’s Spotify Camp Nou stadium came down.

On December 14, 2000, at a Barcelona tennis club, the serviette was first signed by Rexach. Shortly before, Messi had called Rexach in a panic, threatening to send his son back to Argentina.

“That was when, thinking on my feet, I decided everything,” Rexach told ESPN in 2020 to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing.

“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.’

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