Barcelona joins forces with Rakuten-owned Vissel Kobe

Spanish LaLiga football club Barcelona has strengthened its ties with Rakuten by striking a collaboration agreement with Vissel Kobe, the Japanese J1 League team the e-commerce giant owns.

The partnership will take effect for the 2019-20 season, with an option to extend the relationship. Along with sporting benefits, Barcelona said the two clubs will explore joint interests on a business level, adding they will share knowledge in marketing and commercial matters.

Young players will be loaned between the two teams, while Barcelona will help Vissel Kobe with scouting players worldwide, and the top-tier Japanese team will share its knowledge of Asian youth markets with Barcelona.

Vissel Kobe currently has three former Barcelona players on its books in the shape of Andrés Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper. Vissel is also working on fostering the next generation of young talent by introducing new training methods to its academy and going on trips to Barcelona.

In November 2016, Barcelona announced that Rakuten would become its new main sponsor, replacing Qatar Airways. Rakuten signed a four-year deal, covering the 2017-18 to 2020-21 seasons, to become the main global sponsor of the club and to appear on the front of the first team’s shirt.

The deal is worth a basic €55m ($61.3m) per season, with an option to extend for a fifth year. When it was announced, Rakuten said it intended its partnership to be ‘mes que un sponsorship’ – a play on Barcelona’s famous club motto of ‘more than a club’.