Napkin on which Messi signed first Barça contract sold for £760,000

A napkin on which a written commitment was made to 13-year-old Lionel Messi for a contract from FC Barcelona in December 2000, on display at Bonhams in London before it is offered at auction. Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire/dpa

The napkin on which Lionel Messi penned his first Barcelona contract in 2000 was auctioned for £760,000 ($965,630), British auction house Bonhams said on Friday.

Bonhams initially expected the selling price to fall within the range of £300,000 to £500,000. The online auction ran from May 8 to May 17.

"The napkin changed the fortunes of both the club and Messi himself who went on to become one of the greatest players of all time," Bonhams said.

The piece of football memorabilia had been carefully preserved in a safe by Horacio Gaggioli, Messi's representative at the time.

The napkin bears not only Messi's signature, but also those of Carles Rexach, then Barcelona's technical secretary, and Josep Maria Minguella, the talent scout credited with discovering the player.

The napkin, which was signed during a lunch at La Reial Societat de Tennis Pompeia in Montjuïc, holds a written commitment by Rexach.

"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," it's written in the napkin

Messi, who has since won multiple major titles, including Champions League and the World Cup, was only 13 when he joined the Barcelona academy from his local Argentinian club Newell's Old Boys in 2000.

The world champion left Barca in 2021 for Paris Saint-Germain, before moving to Inter Miami last year.