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Napkin with Messi's first Barcelona contract up for auction

Horacio Gaggioli, Messi's representative at the time, carefully kept the soccer memorabilia in a safe

Horacio Gaggioli, Messi's representative at the time, carefully kept the soccer memorabilia in a safe

The napkin 13-year-old Lionel Messi signed his first contract with FC Barcelona on will be auctioned with a starting price of £300,000 ($381,000 or €352,000), British auction house Bonhams said on Wednesday.

The piece of memorabilia, which will be up for sale between March 18 and 27, has been carefully preserved in a safe by Horacio Gaggioli, Messi's representative at the time.

The napkin was signed in December 2000 when Carles Rexach, Barca's then sporting director, agreed with Jorge Messi, Messi's father, and Gaggioli, to recruit the Argentine teenager who went on to become the club's all-time top scorer.

Historic moment for Barcelona and Messi

The pivotal moment in football history happened after Rexach invited Messi senior to have lunch over his concerns at the lack of response following his son's initial trials at the Spanish club.

"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," is written on the napkin from the Pompeia tennis club.

The agreement, ratified by then club president Joan Gaspart, was formally signed that same night and a month later Barcelona completed the signing of Messi to begin his 20-year stay at the Catalan club.

The eight-times Ballon d'Or winner helped Barcelona win 35 titles, making a record 782 appearances and scoring 674 goals. Messi left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, before joining Inter Miami last year.

dh/jsi (Reuters, dpa)