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The Most Important Napkin in the History of Soccer

by Abe Geiger The Most Important Napkin in the History of Soccer Image via Sports.es

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the best soccer players of all time. He’s won the FIFA Player of the Year award a record four times, he helped his native Argentina win the gold medal for men’s soccer at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and he now commands an astonishing $50 million annual salary. Remarkably, Messi’s professional soccer career began with a contract scribbled on a paper napkin.

When he was 13, Messi had his first try-out with FC Barcelona. Messi’s talent was obvious and he attracted the attention of Carles Rexach, a Barcelona club official. Anxious to sign the Argentine teen, Rexach reach for the nearest piece of paper he could find, a plain paper napkin, and drew up a contract.

Rexach recalls, “The family asked us for a paper to confirm the deal so they could be confident about his signing for Barcelona. I had nothing else to write on, so I used a napkin.”

The contract states:

In Barcelona, on the 14th of December of 2000 and in the presence of Josep Minguella and Horacio [Gaggioli], Carles Rexach, FCB technical secretary, it commits under his responsibility and despite some views against it to sign the player Lionel Messi, as long as we remain within the amounts agreed upon.

Horacio Gaggioli, who assisted with the deal, said, “It’s a napkin that myself and many colleagues believe has changed the history of Barcelona…If it didn’t exist, Leo would have played for another team.”

What would have become of Messi, and his club, FC Barcelona, if it weren’t for that napkin agreement? Who knows? But it goes to show the value of getting an agreement in writing.

photo of Abe Geiger
Abe Geiger

Abe is the Founder and CEO of Shake. Prior to Shake, Abe held various roles at early-stage technology startups in both New York and the Bay Area. While in business school, Abe worked at two venture capital firms, Canaan Partners and Greycroft, sourcing and analyzing investment opportunities. During that time he co-founded the NYC Turing Fellows program to bring more engineering talent to NYC startups.

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