Hundreds of thousands of euros for a napkin auctioned in London that Messi doesn't want to know anything about

The iconic piece has been put up for sale by Horacio Gaggioli, a former representative of the Argentine footballer, at Bonhams

3 min
The Bonhams house has started the auction of the napkin that confirmed the arrival of Leo Messi to Barça.

BarcelonaOnly Horacio Gaggioli, Josep Maria Minguella and Carles Rexach know what exactly happened at a table on the terrace of the Reial Societat de Tenis Pompeia chalet on December 14, 2000. No one else was present during the supposed three-way signing of the napkin role that has remained in the history of Barça as the piece that morally confirmed (it did not have legal validity) the arrival of Leo Messi to Barça at 13 years old. The story has always been that this action served to reassure the Messi family, staying at the Hotel Catalonia Barcelona Plaza at that time, given the doubts that the club had regarding the signing of the Argentine. But sources from the Messi family explain to ARA that at that time they did not have access to this napkin, which It is topical again because it is being auctioned at Bonhams.

The seller in the auction is Gaggioli, Messi's representative at that time, who would have had this napkin well stored for almost twenty-four years, first in a bank in Barcelona and then in one in Andorra, where he currently lives. "The napkin has always been mine and Minguella [one of Messi's discoverers and former Barça presidential candidate] is not telling the truth. Minguella's versions are contradictory and untrue. Minguella has never known where the napkin was because has never been yours," says Gaggioli in a letter sent to several media outlets, including this newspaper. "He has never asked me for it since December 2000. Now he is taking advantage of the international visibility of the sale of the napkin to maintain and increase his cache on radio and television at the expense of the truth," he insists.

Precisely Minguella, one of the people most responsible for Messi's arrival at Barça, sent a burofax on March 18 to try to stop the auction. "Both I and Bonhams [in response to the burofax] have demanded that he maintain before a notary what he explains on the radio and television and he has not been able to do so," explains Gaggioli. He refers to the fact that Minguella, according to the Argentine representative, would have questioned in some media whether Gaggioli always had the napkin. And also to another aspect: "I greatly respect the profession of driver. That Minguella says that I was the driver of the Messi family flatters me, despite the fact that he uses it in a derogatory tone for which he should apologize. But it is not true either, no I was".

The text that Charly Rexach, then technical secretary of Barça, would have written on the napkin, reads like this: “In Barcelona, on December 14, 2000 and in the presence of Mrs. Minguella and Horacio, Carles Rexach, technical secretary of the FCB, undertakes under his sole responsibility and despite some contrary opinions to sign the player Lionel Messi as long as we stay within the agreed quantities”.

Minguella believes that Barça should have the napkin

After he managed to provisionally stop the auction, the ARA spoke with Minguella, who in that case did not doubt that Gaggioli had always had the iconic piece. "I didn't give more importance to the napkin. The only important thing was to have reassured the Messi. But Gaggioli took it home," he explained about the meeting at the Pompeia. "The first thing Horacio should have done when he had the idea of auctioning the napkin should have been to contact Charly and me. "I want to do this. Does it sound good to you? How do you want to do it?" But he only contacted Charly. This napkin should end up in the Barça Museum because it is part of the club's history," Minguella also told this newspaper.

The terrace of the Pompeia villa where the paper napkin that confirmed Messi's arrival at Barça was supposedly signed.

In any case, does Barça have a real interest in owning it? Several club officials, as ARA has learned, would like it to be part of the entity's collection. But, officially, Barça does not want to amplify a conflict that also involves the Rosario footballer and his entourage. "This is an issue for the Messi family. Barça does not enter. The issue of the napkin is complex between the Messi and those who were representatives of the player many years ago and we do not want to enter. If the Messi family wants to have it and give it to the museum, go ahead. But the club will not enter the auction," official club sources explained to ARA. It is a position similar to the one that previous managers maintained when Messi was still playing for Barça.

For its part, the Bonhams house has not yet responded to the questions that the ARA has asked about Minguella's attempt to stop the auction and the controversy surrounding the napkin. The burofax assumed that the start date of the auction was postponed from the end of March to May 8. With a starting price of £220,000 (€255,000), it will end on Friday.