Messi’s napkin set to score big at auction with US$379,000 starting bid

A napkin with Lionel Messi's signature

This napkin kickstarted Lionel Messi’s storied career

Imagine a napkin, the kind you find at any restaurant, nondescript and disposable. Yet, in the hands of an Argentine football prodigy and a renowned Spanish football club, an ordinary piece of paper becomes a priceless artefact.

With a starting bid of US$379,000, the napkin that sealed a young Lionel Messi’s first commitment to FC Barcelona is up for auction. This is no ordinary piece of football history—it’s the very foundation of one of the most spectacular sporting narratives of our time. Messi’s former agent, Horacio Gaggiogli, principally oversees the napkin’s journey, hoping that its auction will not only fetch a bountiful sum but also acknowledge Messi’s substantial impact on FC Barcelona and football at large.

Shirt with FC Barcelona's crest
Lionel Messi wore FC Barcelona’s jersey for over 20 years. Photo by dwlly

Prior to wearing the iconic Blaugrana colours, Lionel Messi’s future in football teetered on a precarious edge, overshadowed by doubts about his slight frame. His talent was undeniable, yet the question loomed: could a diminutive 13-year-old from Rosario ascend in a sport celebrated for its rigorous physicality and skill? These apprehensions, once deemed sensible, now appear utterly misguided. Messi’s tenure at Barcelona was spectacular—amassing 672 goals, clinching 35 trophies, and securing an unprecedented eight Ballon d’Or awards. His achievements render any initial scepticism laughably obsolete.

Ian Ehling of Bonhams New York encapsulates the significance of the napkin, “This is 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.”

Ballon d'or trophies in front of a panel of Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi won it all at Barcelona and cemented his legacy. Photo by Tim Bernhard

Despite winning FIFA’s ultimate prize, the World Cup, in 2022, Messi remains reticent about concluding his international career. The 2026 World Cup, already steeped in speculation over a final bow from Messi, stands as a captivating possibility. But the essence of this moment is the napkin. Amid injuries and triumphs, Messi’s unparalleled legacy, interwoven with that humble piece of serviette, perpetuates his journey. The napkin may change ownership, but his story, now and always, will remain indelibly linked to that initial blue scribble.

Bidding commences on March 18th through Bonhams.