The Story of the Paper Napkin that Changed the World


Carles Rexach’s job was on the line. He stood there in the beautiful and lush office of the club president sweating profusely despite the air conditioning system which was on at full blast. The president, Joan Gaspart was red with rage, gesticulating menacingly at Carles.

“I swear to God Carl, the next mistake you make will not only cost you your job, but your entire career!” he fumed, “How could you have been so careless and wasteful?”
“I’m really sorry…….”
“This is no time for apologises Carl,” the president interrupted cutting him off, “you have just three days to find me something good or else, do not bother coming back here.”
Timidly, Carl left the cauldron that was the president’s office, “Only three days?” he pondered to himself unable to believe what he just heard. The clock was ticking fast.



Carles Rexach was a balding sharp-witted man in his early forties who recently got divorced from his wife of 25 years. He was the Chief Scout of Barcelona Football Club in Spain (one of the biggest clubs in the world). His job was to seek out and recruit talented footballers from all over the world who would possibly play for the club. Initially, he was really good at what he did; helping recruit some of the finest footballers to have ever graced the club, but lately he has made a whole lot of mistakes which had plunged the club into huge debts and financial crisis. Some of the players he had signed had ended up as flops; colossal wastes of time and resources. Despite calls from several executives to have him sacked, the president had magnanimously given him three days to prove he is still the man for the job. The pressure was truly on him.
“Three days won’t be enough to get anything done” he thought to himself as he tucked in for the night, certain that disaster was just around the corner.

Somewhere in the deep muskiness of unconsciousness, Carl woke to the consistent ringing of his bedside telephone. Grrrr, grrrr, grrrr it continued, rousing him from sleep.
“Who could be calling me by this time?” he wondered checking his watch. It was Raul Gaggiolo his personal assistant.
“Hello, what is it?” he angrily asked, struggling to shake the sleep from his eyes.
After few seconds the person at the other end responded with only seven words.
“Boss, you need to see this, now!”
Bolting instantly from his bed, Carl grabbed his woollen coat and headed out into the cold winter morning. It was the second day.


Sitting in a tiny cramped office sipping diet Coke, Carl’s eyes were glued to the computer screen before him. He has been watching the video clips given to him by Raul who just returned that morning from South America ,where he had gone for scouting business. In the video, a small skinny boy who was no more than 12 years of age had just finished dribbling the entire team, including the goalkeeper. Carl almost shouted when the boy picked the ball out of the net and proceeded to repeat the act, He couldn’t believe it! Not since the days of Maradonna has he ever seen such pure God-given talent, surely this was the golden ticket to winning his job back.

Quick as silver Carl grabbed his phone. “I must sign this incredible boy” he murmured to no one in particular.
“I need to set up a meeting with this boy and his family immediately!” he enthused, smiling generously at Raul who was seated beside him. But just as he was about to dial the number, Carl received the greatest shock of his entire life.
“That boy is seriously sick, and his treatment would cost millions of Pesetas,” Raul informed solemnly “are you sure he is worth the risk?”
Instantly Carl froze, the phone hanging in mid-air, after few seconds, he slumped back in the chair and cried. The video was stil
l on.

“Good morning Sir” Carl greeted, reaching out his hand across the table to shake the man in front of him.
“Good morning to you too” the man responded, clasping his hand warmly with both of his. It was the boy’s father, his little son was also seated beside him.

Carl had gone ahead to make arrangements to meet with the boy, if not for anything else, he wanted to meet the boy wonder in person. He was the one that footed the travel and accommodation bills.
“If you are interested in signing my son, then you will have to pay his medical bills” the boy’s father stated matter-of-factly. He was a no nonsense man who hated people wasting his time.
“Of course we are interested” Carl replied nervously, wiping his sweaty palms with a paper napkin.
“I also have to tell you” the boy’s father continued, “there are so many other clubs waiting to meet my son, in fact, we have scheduled a meeting with the Real Madrid FC by this time tomorrow.” At the mention of Real Madrid, Carl almost fell sick, he knew it was only a matter of time before they got wind of news of the little genius.

Carl was inevitably thrown into an unfathomable dilemma; sign the boy and the club will by law have to cover his multi-million medical bills and if unfortunately he flops then that could spell the end of not only his scouting career but even the future of the club or let the boy go to Real Madrid, who knows whether he is the next best thing to happen to football. The clock was ticking, Carl had a decision to make!

At that particular restaurant table, at that particular moment on 14th December 2000, Carles Rexach took a decision that changed the world;

Searching his pocket and not finding any piece of paper to write on, he picked up the paper napkin that lay on the table, wrote out the terms of a normal football contract, signed and pushed it to boy’s father who signed also. He then gently picked up the napkin, folded it neatly and tucked it into the pocket of his black Armani suit.
“It was nice doing business with you” he said, beaming at father and son, at once extending his hand for a final handshake. He was still feelling a little tense.
“It’s our pleasure” the father replied, cordially returning the handshake. He couldn’t believe their luck, finally his son was going to get treated.

Carl was almost at the door when he turned sharply and gestured to the boy saying “sorry, I can’t believe I almost forgot, what’s your name kid?”
Smiling shyly while twisting his blonde locks the boy replied “Lionel Andres Messi.”

Author: Peter Oz