The superstars of FC Barcelona were on hand to launch Rakuten’s partnership with FC Barcelona at a press conference in Tokyo on July 13.
In front of more than 250 journalists and cameras crowded into a headquarters conference room, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani was joined on stage by Barca players Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., Gerard Pique and Arda Turan to share their excitement about the partnership, Japan and the season ahead.
Mickey kicked things off by explaining why Rakuten had chosen to partner with Barcelona, outlining the deep affinity he felt for the club’s values.
“FC Barcelona’s motto of being ‘more than a club’ resonates with Rakuten’s commitment to being ‘more than a company’ – by empowering entrepreneurs and innovation, by supporting youth to become leaders of the future, and by contributing to local communities around the world,” he said.
Gerard Pique concurred, saying that he sees the connection between the team and Rakuten running much deeper than just sponsorship.
“I think we have the same values, the same philosophy – FC Barcelona and Rakuten,” Pique said. “I think we have the same thoughts about not just playing but having fun, not just working but enjoying what we are doing. These are main values we share – FC Barcelona and Rakuten. That’s why we consider this not just a partnership, but a family.”
And it wasn’t just Rakuten, but Japan as a whole that impressed the players. Striker Neymar Jr. spoke about the warm welcome he and his teammates had received. “Every time I come here I enjoy myself. The warm hospitality is one thing – I really enjoy it,” he said. “And the Japanese food is great!”
As the focus of the discussion switched to the coming season, one journalist probed Neymar Jr. about his objectives for the next year – and whether he thought he could outshine his teammate and five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Linonel Messi. But Neymar wasn’t to be drawn on any potential rivalry, answering instead that it was the team’s performance that was most important.
“The objective is always to win – whether or not I score a goal – because we’re a team. So if I can score goals, of course, I can be happy. But if Arda, Pique or Messi can score goals I’ll be just as happy,” he said.
Messi concurred, noting that the performance as a team was paramount. “Whenever I start a new season there is a clear goal – which is that FCB will always do its absolute best,” he said.
For his part, Mickey was also optimistic. “I’m excited to be able to start this partnership, too. And we want to see you take those two titles, La Liga and Champions League!” he said.
Arda Turan suggested that Rakuten’s support might even help. “The important thing is we’re going to win all titles, and together we can do that with Rakuten!” he said.
Meanwhile, FC Barcelona Vice President responsible for Marketing and Communication, Manel Arroyo, who was traveling with the players, suggested that even off the field Rakuten and FC Barcelona will be in for success. “We are sure about Rakuten and FCB making a huge path together in the world of sports,” he said.