Pique the middleman: How Barcelona's centre-back was behind lucrative shirt deal

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Gerard Pique was the unlikely man behind Barcelona's lucrative new shirt sponsorship deal.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed it was the Spain international who gave the club a foot through the door by arranging a meeting with his friend, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani midway through 2015.

That meeting came in the weeks after Bartomeu had been re-elected Barca president, with Pique's wife Shakira also involved in the planning.

Well over a year later, the Japanese company have now been confirmed as Barca's new shirt sponsors from 2017-18 in a four-year deal worth an initial EUR55m-per-season, plus incentives - EUR5m for Champions League success and EUR1.5m for winning LaLiga.

"The deal began at a dinner hosted by Gerard Pique at Hiroshi Mikitani's house in San Francisco in 2015," revealed Bartomeu at an event announcing the deal.

"Shakira and Pique are good friends of Mikitani and they organised a dinner.

"We met there and we spoke about the future and Rakuten's interest - Pique helped us a lot here.

"Gerard is one of us so the agreement is good to FCB. Gerard knew many steps but not all of them!"

Pique's grandfather, Amador Bernabeu, is a former vice-president of Barcelona and it seems he has a similar entrepreneurial spirit.