Can you imagine Barcelona without Messi and vice versa? Impossible! The Argentine joined the Catalan club at the age of 13 and has been at the centre of the club ever since. It is impossible to imagine the -time Ballon d’Or winner in any other jersey, let alone the All Whites of Real Madrid. Messi has scored 26 goals against Barca’s arch-rivals. But what if the Little Master joined Los Blancos back in 2001 instead of Barca?
Messi to Madrid?
Yes, it almost happened! Author of Luca Caioli, Leo Messi’s biography, Messi: More Than a Superstar, recently interviewed the Argentine’s representatives, Horacio Gaggioli and former Barca coach Charly Rexach, where they discussed the details of Messi move.
Despite negotiations with Messi’s agents, Barcelona were reluctant to sign the player back in 2000 due to hormonal issues of the youngster. But there is a very good reason why Leo’s contract was signed in a rush on a paper napkin – He was being offered to Real Madrid!
“Charly, we’ve got this far. Either you play him or the boy goes elsewhere,” Gaggioli said it to Rexach back then. And Gaggioli recalls that he wasn’t just saying it to pressure Barcelona. “I wasn’t bluffing. We had already begun talks with Real Madrid.”
After facing the possibility of losing the gifted youngster, Barcelona quickly decided to sign Messi and that is how the historic ‘Paper Napkin’ agreement was signed.
“They didn’t trust me; they didn’t trust Barcelona. They wanted a written agreement or that was the end of the negotiations. I knew for sure that I couldn’t let that kid slip through our fingers, so I grabbed a paper napkin and wrote something to the effect that the club promised to sign Leo Messi if the agreed conditions were met. I signed it and I gave it to him.”
But there were a few more issues. Messi’s family also moved to Barcelona, leaving their jobs and house in Argentine. So, they obviously wanted some assurances. And after everything, an official contract was signed on 8th January 2001 in Via Veneto, a restaurant in Barcelona. The final contract includes the 7 million pesetas (approximately equivalent to £40,000) for Messi’s father.
And after both parties were happy, Lionel Andres Messi left Rosario and reached Barcelona on 15th February 2001 – And he hasn’t looked back since then!