Rakuten is Japan's largest online retailer and the move reflects its desire for further global expansion. From the start of the 2017/18 European soccer season, its logo and branding will be placed on Barcelona's playing shirts, replacing the current sponsor Qatar Airways.
The deal includes an option to extend into a fifth year, and is worth significantly more to the La Liga club than the Qatar Airways agreement. According to reports, the airline was paying in the region of €30 million (US$32 million) a year. Rakuten's investment almost doubles that figure, coming in at €55 million (US$58 million) per year. The deal is thought to be rivalled only by Chevrolet's sponsorship of English giants Manchester United, which is also valued at US$58 million per season.
Barcelona's search for a replacement for Qatar Airways has been protracted. The club began looking almost two years ago, but ultimately ended up signing a one-year extension to that deal in the summer, after the original agreement expired in July.