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Barcelona announce lucrative Rakuten shirt deal

Barcelona have announced a deal which will see Japanese company Rakuten become the club's main global partner and shirt sponsors from the 2017-18 season.

The agreement, which also sees Rakuten named "global innovation and entertainment partners", will ensure the brand's name appears on Barca matchday jerseys for an initial four years, with the option of a fifth.

"We are delighted with this fantastic partnership, which will see one of the world's premier sporting clubs join forces with a truly global innovation company which can bring expertise in big data, communications and e-commerce to support Barca's future successes," club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said in the club's statement confirming the deal on Wednesday.

The agreement with Rakuten – who already have involvement in football through their ownership of J-League outfit Vissel Kobe - will be ratified at an extraordinary meeting of club members "in the coming weeks".

Rakuten will replace Qatar Airways as shirt sponsors, with the new deal worth €55million per season.

That means the deal is worth just less than Manchester United's £53m-per-year world-record agreement with Chevrolet.

The Qatar Foundation and then Qatar Airways have been involved in sponsorship of Barca for over six years and it has taken the club over a year longer than initially expected to find their replacement.