The napkin that secured the services of a 13-year-old Lionel Messi for Barcelona Football Club has a starting price of £300,000 at Bonhams.

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The single lot online sale runs from April 2-11 with the starting price set at £300,000. 

The story has been told many times in footballing circles. Barcelona’s recruitment of prodigiously talented Argentine boy had not been without its obstacles. At under 5ft tall some thought Messi too small and balked at the potential cost of signing a 13-year-old.

By December 2000, Messi’s father Jorge, a supervisor in a steel mill, had become impatient at the lack of commitment from the Spanish club and brought the matter to a head when representatives from both sides met for lunch at the Pompeia tennis club in Barcelona. Sensing things had reached a crucial moment, Carles Rexach, Barca's sporting director, pulled a paper napkin from a dispenser on the table ... and began to write with his ballpoint pen.


It stated: "En Barcelona, a 14 de diciembre del 2000 y en presencia de los Sres. Minguella y Horacio, Carles Rexach, secretario técnico del FC Barcelona, se compromete bajo su responsabilidad y a pesar de algunas opiniones en contra a fichar al jugador Lionel Messi siempre y cuando nos mantengamos en las cantidades acordadas".

"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."

The statement was signed by Carles Rexach, a longstanding player and coach for the club and Josep Minguella, the transfer advisor who had arranged for Messi's first tryout in Spain in September 2000. Horacio Gaggioli, the Argentine agent who brought Messi to the attention of Carles Rexach, was also at the table and he too signed the napkin. It is Gaggioli who is offering it for sale in April.

Ian Ehling, head of books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York described the 16.5 x 16.5cm sheet of tissue as "one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled. Yes, it's a paper napkin, but it's the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi's career. 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."