The paper napkin containing the agreement which saw Lionel Messi join FC Barcelona will go to auction with a starting price of $380,000 (£300,000).
The napkin, which was signed to acquire the talents of then 13-year-old Messi in 2000, will be sold by auction house Bonhams in March.
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.
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 to come.
After developing in the famed La Masia – Barça’s academy – Messi would go onto become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, having made his debut for the senior team in 2004 aged 16, becoming the youngest player to represent the club in an official match at the time.
It was the beginning of a legendary career for Messi, during which time he made 778 appearances for Barcelona, going on to break the club’s goalscoring record and win 35 trophies during his time at the Camp Nou – including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.
“This is one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled,” Ian Ehling, head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said in a statement.
“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.”