Rakuten is set to replace Qatar Airways as Barcelona's main sponsor after the La Liga giants have announced a four-year agreement with the Japanese company to start at the beginning of the 2017-2018. The deal could worth up to €61.5m (£53m, $65.9m) a-season, almost the same as the previous record deal between Manchester United and Chevrolet and beating Chelsea's current deal with Yokohama.
Barcelona is reportedly currently receiving around €30m from Qatar Airways after, in the summer, the club announced an agreement to extend their previous deal with the airline until June 217.
Yet, the airline has sponsored the La Liga champions since the 2013-2014 campaign, following on from previous deals with Qatar Foundation and Unicef.
But the Catalans giants have been in discussion with other companies since last year after they publicly announced their intention to increase that figure with a new deal worth between €60 and €65m.
Qatar Airways themselves, Amazon, Huawei or Alibaba.com have since emerged as candidates to the sponsor. However, during a press conference on (16 November) Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has revealed that Rakuten has finally been the chosen one after the club have agreed a four-year-deal worth €55m plus futher €6.5m in add-ons with the Japanese electronic commerce and internet company .
"FC Barcelona and Rakuten Inc., a dynamic global company leading the way in e-commerce, communications, digital content and FinTech services for consumers and businesses around the world, have reached an agreement for the Japanese company to become the main global sponsor of the Club and to appear on the front of the first team's jersey for the next four seasons, beginning in 2017/18," the club have confirmed.
"The partnership agreement links the Club with Rakuten from the 2017/18 season until the 2020/21 season, with the option of a further one-year extension. As a result of this agreement, FC Barcelona will annually receive 55 million euros plus title incentives for the duration of the four-year contract. This agreement will be ratified at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Club Members to be held in the near future," they added.
The deal means a significant financial increase from the previous amount paid by Qatar but also helps Barcelona to compete with the Premier League powerforces as club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has reiterated in recent times his concerns about the increasing wealth of the likes of Manchester United.
Manchester United, according to the BBC, also reportedly net around £53m-a-year from Chevrolet while Chelsea would go down to the third position of the table as their sponsorship with Yokohama, is worth around £40m-a-year.
"We are the only club which released the details. It depends a bit on the fluctuation but this deal would be in the same level as the previous record deal of Manchester United (with Chevrolet),"vice president Manel Arroyo confirmed.
Last year Barcelona also announced an extension to their kit-manufacturing agreement with Nike which according to the Spanish media also beat Manchester United previous record-breaking deal with Adidas, as could worth up to €155m.