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Barca are favourites no more

Barcelona
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BarcelonaBarcelona
Real BetisReal Betis
6:15 PM UTC
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Barcelona's Rakuten sponsorship includes deal for friendly in Japan

Barcelona's new four-year, €220 million sponsorship deal with Asian e-commerce company Rakuten includes an obligation to play at least one friendly in Japan in the coming years.

At a presentation to confirm the agreement, club vice president Manel Arroyo said there would definitely be one game and possibly two if the calendar permitted it.

That means more long haul flights for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and their Barcelona teammates.

As well as the trio's regular flights to South America to fulfill national team commitments, there are also preseason tours of the United States and the Club World Cup in Japan.

Coach Luis Enrique was keen to minimise the Blaugrana's travelling this summer, replacing a long-haul tour with a training camp in England and friendlies around Europe.

However, Barcelona's commercial agreements mean they are tied to a certain number of games in locations around the world.

They will play a match against Al-Ahli in Qatar on Dec. 13, between La Liga games against Osasuna and Espanyol.

The fixture, originally scheduled for earlier this year, will be played at Doha's Thani bin Jassim Stadium and is part of the agreement Barca signed with current sponsor Qatar Airways.

In addition, president Josep Maria Bartomeu has suggested the club will play a friendly in India in the next two to three years, although they are not contractually obliged to do so. 

The showing off of Barcelona around the world is part of his long-term plan to boost the club's revenue beyond the €1 billion mark.

Predictions suggest they will end the 2016-17 season with a record revenue of €695m, representing a two percent increase on the previous year's €679m. 

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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