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From left to right: Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's CEO, Messi, Neymar Jr, Pîqué, Arda Turan and Manel Arroyo, who were in Tokyo Thursday to kick off the Rakuten era. | FCB

FC Barcelona stars Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, Gerard Piqué, and Arda Turan became the first players to make a public appearance wearing the team’s new shirt featuring the logo of Rakuten, the Club’s new Main Global Partner, when they took part in a kick-off press conference Thursday in Tokyo, Japan along with the Club’s Vice President for Marketing and Communication, Manel Arroyo, and the founder and CEO of Rakuten Inc., Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani.

“Barça has a special philosophy,” Mr. Mikitani said. “And that is why we want to support them with this sponsorship.”

While the rest of the first team was getting ready to begin its second day of preseason training under the new head coach, Ernesto Valverde, the four Barça players on hand in Tokyo took part in a series of events to celebrate the beginning of the Rakuten era, which officially commenced on July 1st. Rakuten, a global internet services company based in Japan, is FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner and Official Innovation and Entertainment Partner.

Echoing the Rakuten CEO, Barça defender Gerard Piqué drew comparisons between the values shared by the Japanese firm and Barça.

“This is more than a sponsorship,” Piqué said, in a nod to the Club’s famous credo, ‘More than a Club.’

Lionel Messi also had a chance to speak during the press conference, and summed up his perspective coming into the new campaign.

“Our objectives are clear,” Messi said. “We really hope to win every title. Personally, I am very excited to return, meet the new coach and his staff, and enjoy another year at the Club.”

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