Rakuten, the leading Japanese online retailer, has agreed to spend at least €220 million for a four-year deal to become the shirt sponsor of FC Barcelona from the 2017/18 season, with potential extra payments based on performance and an option to extend to a fifth year. The agreement comes after the Catalan club's partnership with Qatar Airways was extended for a year in July. The Financial Times reported that the contact between the club and the retailer was established at a dinner given in San Francisco by Gerard Piqué and his partner, the pop star Shakira. Among the attendees was Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and chief executive of Rakuten, which has been described as Japan's Amazon. Established in 1997, it reported a turnover of about 713.5 billion yen (€5.95bn-$6.31bn) in 2015. Mikitani told the newspaper that the deal would help to increase the brand recognition in international markets. It started expanding about ten years ago through acquisitions such as Buy.com, Priceminister in France and Ikeda in Brazil, and investments in other companies such as Pinterest and Ozon.ru. When it comes to sports, Rakuten already owns Vissel Kobe a J-League football club, and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a baseball club. FC Barcelona's lucrative partnership with Rakuten comes after a ten-year extension of the club's endorsement deal with Nike, which should be worth at least €155 million per year from 2018.

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