The Blueprint For Lionel Messi’s Barcelona Contract Sells For Almost $1 Million

File under: napkins that made sports history

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi of Inter Miami CF before the start of a MLS game against D.C.United at Chase Stadium.
Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer released its salary information for the current season — and if you’ve ever wondered how much Lionel Messi is making for his first full season at Inter Miami, your question now has an answer. ($20.4 million, according to The Athletic’s analysis.) If you don’t have eight figures of dollars in hand, there are other ways to channel Messi’s time on the pitch, however — and a recent auction just revealed one of them.

As Chloe Veltman reports at NPR, a napkin on which the deal that brought Messi to longtime club Barcelona recently sold at auction for the equivalent of $968,000 — well over double the starting bid.

“What a wonderful result for one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled,” said Bonhams New York’s Head of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Ian Ehling, 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.”

The napkin is dated December 14, 2000, and outlines Barcelona’s committment to signing Messi in the wake of his arrival in Spain at the age of 13. The whole story falls into the “stranger than fiction” category — signing one of the greatest to ever play the sport based on a deal mapped out on a napkin? — and yet here we are.

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Messi would make his debut for Barcelona’s senior team in 2003 and formally joined their roster the following year. His time at the club is the stuff of which legendary careers are made — and his post-Barca career at Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Miami C.F. has abounded with highlights as well. And to think, it all began with a napkin.

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