LONDON: The napkin that then 13-year-old Lionel Messi signed as part of an initial agreement to join FC Barcelona sold for nearly US$1 million in an auction Friday, British auction house Bonhams announced.

A buyer purchased the keepsake for about US$968,000 in the online sale, United Press International (UPI) reported. The starting bid was about US$381,150.

“Since the sale was first announced. it captured international attention and fans all over the world have anticipated this day, Bonhams New York’s head of fine books and manuscripts Ian Ehling said in a news release”

“What a wonderful result for 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”.

The napkin features blue ink, with signatures from Messi and representatives of the Argentine and of the Spanish La Liga soccer franchise. It was signed Dec. 14, 2000, at a Barcelona-area tennis club, according to UPI.

Messi later signed a more formal contract and went on to become one of the greatest soccer players in history.

Messi, 36, spent more than two decades with Barcelona. That tenure ended when he signed with Paris Saint-German in 2021. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is currently dealing with a leg injury, putting his status in limbo for Inter Miami’s next match.

His Herons will host DC United on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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