The napkin on which 13-year-old <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/tags/lionel-messi/" target="_blank">Lionel Messi</a> signed his first contract with Barcelona will be auctioned in March, with a starting price of £300,000 ($381,000), British auction house Bonhams said. The napkin dates back to December 2000 and was signed by Barca's then sporting director Carles Rexach, Messi's father Jorge, and agent Horacio Gaggioli. Gaggioli is the current holder of the delicate piece of sports memorabilia and an online auction will run from March 18-27. The historic, if unusual, document would set an <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/football/2023/12/06/lionel-messi-named-time-magazines-athlete-of-the-year-for-2023/" target="_blank">unheard-of teenager from Argentina</a> off on a journey from local club Newell's Old Boys and end with him as Barcelona's all-time leading scorer and arguably the greatest player ever. "This is one of the most thrilling items I have ever handled," Ian Ehling, the head of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said. "Yes, it's a paper napkin, but it's the famous napkin that was at the inception of Messi's career. It changed the life of Messi, the future of Barca and was instrumental in giving some of the most glorious moments of football to billions of fans around the globe." The pivotal moment in football history happened after Rexach invited Messi senior to have lunch over his concerns at the lack of response following his son's initial trials at the Spanish club. "In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and in 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," is written on the napkin from the Pompeia tennis club. The agreement, ratified by then club president Joan Gaspart, was formally signed that same night and a month later Barcelona completed the signing of <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/football/2023/07/18/lionel-messi-may-be-big-fish-in-small-mls-pond-but-ambition-remains-high/" target="_blank">Messi</a> to begin his 20-year stay at the Catalan club. "That was when, thinking on my feet, I decided everything," Rexach told ESPN in 2020 to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing. "Why a napkin? Because it was the only thing I had available to hand. I saw the only way to relax Jorge was signing something, giving him some proof, so I asked for a napkin from the waiter." The decision to sign Messi proved a masterstroke. The <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/football/2023/10/31/lionel-messi-ballon-dor-eighth/" target="_blank">eight-time Ballon d'Or winner</a> helped Barca win 35 titles, including 10 La Ligas, seven Copa del Reys and four Champions League trophies. Messi made a record 782 appearances for the club and scored 674 goals. He left the club in August 2021 as the Spanish club were hit with huge financial penalties and was in talks to rejoin them last summer but talks broke down. Messi <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/football/2023/12/06/lionel-messi-named-time-magazines-athlete-of-the-year-for-2023/" target="_blank">would go on to sign for MLS side Inter Miami</a>. Messi memorabilia is in hot demand recently. In December 2023, a collection of six Argentina shirts Messi wore during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/us-news/2023/12/14/lionel-messi-auction-sothebys/" target="_blank">sold for almost $8 million at auction in New York</a>. Messi led his country to a third World Cup title, scoring twice in a thrilling 3-3 final against France before the South Americans won a penalty shoot-out 4-2.