• Messi and his father, Jorge, were close to deciding against Barcelona in favour of Real Madrid when executive Carles Rexach took matters into his own hands.
  • "His father felt that things were not all too clear and told me they would leave," he said, according to ESPN. "I decided to sign him on a paper napkin that a waiter gave me because I couldn't let him get away."
  • The napkin has since been preserved in a frame, which you can see below.
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The man who helped Barcelona discover Lionel Messi says he made him sign a contract on a paper napkin when he was just 12 years old because he knew he was too talented to let slip away.

Carles Rexach was a Barcelona executive when he met Messi as a boy during a trial with the club.

The executive, who himself played for Barca between 1966-81, told The Guardian it took only a matter of minutes to know he'd seen someone special.

However, with other club executives skeptical about Messi's height, his father, Jorge, threatened to take him elsewhere. Real Madrid was amongst those interested.

It was at this point that Rexach decided to take matters into his own hands.

"His father felt that things were not all too clear and told me they would leave," he said, according to ESPN. "It was then I decided [to sign him] on the fly.

"Once in Barcelona I decided to sign him on a paper napkin that a waiter gave me because I couldn't let him get away."

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Horacio Gaggioli, an agent involved in Messi's transfer to Barcelona who was present at the meeting, still has the napkin, which is now lovingly displayed in a frame.

Lionel Messi napkin
Lionel Messi napkin
AP Images/Manu Fernandez

"In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and the presence of Messrs Minguella and Horacio (Gaggioli), Carles Rexach, Director of Football of F.C.B., 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," it reads, according to FIFA.

Rexach may have played over 400 games for Barcelona himself, but his true legacy at the club lies on a serviette.

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