Lionel Messi’s Napkin Contract Pre-Estimate Reaches $626,000

A napkin contract was used to sign Lionel Messi to FC Barcelona, with its value estimated between $375,000 to $626,000.

Argentinian football player Lionel Messi secured his path to FC Barcelona, or Barça, through a peculiar artifact: a napkin contract. It was the mark of Messi’s humble beginnings in the field of sports as it won him a spot in the second largest sports club in the world. The historic item has become a hot commodity in a remarkable auction at Bonhams with a value up to approximately $626,000. 

Messi’s napkin contract encapsulates his prodigy story and the journey towards global acclaim, with a club that dared to believe in his potential. 

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Origin of a legend

Bonhams regarded the signed napkin contract as a legendary origin as it was tangible proof that someone believed in a 13-year old Messi. 

The then-young athlete arrived in Barcelona from Argentina in September 2000, according to the auction house. The city’s former sporting director, Carles Rexach, reportedly recognized his talent in less than five minutes. 

Carles Rexach was one of the first people who believed in Lionel Messi and created a napkin contract to sign him
Carles Rexach was one of the first people who believed in Lionel Messi and created a napkin contract to sign him/Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“We have to sign him,” he told his coaches. However, Bonhams reiterated that the Barça board resisted signing him and left him and his father, Jorge, waiting until mid December. 

Lionel threatened to return to his country, leading Rexach to take matters into his own hands and agreed to commit to him. There is not a single piece of paper available nearby, so the sporting official asked the waiter for one, but was given a napkin instead. “He wrote the words that would create one of the most important relationships in the history of sports,” Bonhams said.

What the napkin contract says

A report from The Guardian revealed Messi’s journey towards a career of a lifetime wasn’t a walk in the park. It certainly wasn’t any easier signing a 13-year old Argentinian back then. 

Jorge had to find work as the young prodigy needed to pay for growth hormone treatments that they injected into his legs every day. Those did not come cheap as it reached almost $1,000 a month. The £40,000 ($50,303) a month that the team would pay Jorge was too much money for a “player so young about whom there could be no guarantees.” 

Lionel Messi showed prowess in football as early as 13 years old
Lionel Messi showed prowess in football as early as 13 years old/Photo via Instagram @leomessi

He was a foreigner, so he could only play in a particular competition. He was referred to as “el mudo” or “the mute one” in the dressing rooms. 

The Guardian further chronicled that while the original agreement had been laid down, nothing actually happened. So, Messi’s agents warned that other clubs were interested in his potential, like Real Madrid. 

That was when Rexach pulled out a serviette and wrote a contract that said the following:

“In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and 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.”

Symbolizing unparalleled success

Rexach forged the most fruitful relationship in the history of football or “possibly in the history of any sport.” 

Bonhams’ auction website revealed that Messi’s napkin contract was valued between £300,000 to £500,000, or about $375,000 to $626,000.

The napkin contract which jumpstarted Messi’s successful career as a football player
The napkin contract which jumpstarted Messi’s successful career as a football player/Photo from Bonhams’ website

The current bid is at £220,000, or roughly $275,000, and bidding started on May 8 as per Reuters. The auction event ends on May 17. 

Bonhams Chief Marketing Officer Marc Sands said the napkin contract represented a bond between the Spanish city and the athlete. “It was never legally binding, but emotionally it represents the deep link, or the beginning of the deep link, that Messi had with Barcelona.”

Messi scored 35 wins for Barcelona, scored 674 goals, and had 782 appearances. His 17 years in the club highlighted his unparalleled success as an individual and a team player. He left Barcelona in 2021 and now plays for Inter Miami.

Banner photo via Instagram @leomessi.

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