Lionel Messi first arrived at Barcelona’s academy on September 17, 2000.
He was just 13-years-old when he left Argentinian club Newell’s Old Boys for Catalonia. He made his debut for the Under-14 team in February 2001 and his first-team debut two years later.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
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The napkin that famously acts as Messi’s first contract with Barcelona bears the name of the man who represented the 28-year-old at the time, Ruben Horacio Gaggioli.
Gaggioli, who still owns the napkin, continues to work in transfer business and his latest deal involves bringing another young starlet to the Camp Nou.
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According to Goal, Gaggioli has brokered a deal that will see Brazilian wonderkid Caio Emerson join Barcelona on a five-year contract.
The Corinthians striker, 17, has agreed to join the Spanish champions as soon as he turns 18.
Barcelona have beaten Manchester City and Chelsea to the youngster’s signature and one look at his highlight reel shows why three of Europe’s biggest clubs were interested.
Goal’s report adds that Manchester City have followed Caio’s development for six years. Six years of analysis, only to watch him join their biggest European rivals. Gutted.
The napkin story
If Caio becomes half the player Messi is, Gaggiol will be delighted.
There were genuine concerns that Messi would not sign for Barcelona after arriving for a trial in September 2000. The Guardian report his father’s dissatisfaction with Barca’s delay in offering him a permanent deal, forcing Messi’s agents to issue the Spanish club with an ultimatum.
“His dad was getting angry and said Leo was leaving,” Charly Rexach, then Barcelona’s technical director, told AS, per The Guardian.
“We’ll go elsewhere,” Gaggioli told him during a lunch meeting on December 14, 2000, citing apparent interest from Real Madrid.
At that moment, Rexach pulled out a serviette and started writing.
"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,” Rexach wrote.
The rest really is history.