Soccer

Barcelona announces 2019 summer tour to Asia

AFP-JIJI

Barcelona plans to visit China and Japan as part of a preseason tour to Asia next summer, the club announced on Tuesday.

After consecutive years traveling to the United States for the International Champions Cup, Barca will return to Asia for the first time since playing a friendly in Qatar in December 2016.

The trip raises the possibility of a reunion with Andres Iniesta, who joined the J. League’s Vissel Kobe in May after 22 years at Barcelona.

“Barca will travel to Asia next summer to get closer to local fans and partners, and plans to visit China and Japan during the preseason, as part of the global expansion and brand development strategy,” the club wrote in a statement.

“Football is growing at a fast pace in countries like China and Japan, where the club not only wants to develop commercially, but also to capture and retain fans.”

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has emphasized the importance of the Asian market to the club, which has a stated aim of reaching one billion euros in revenue by 2021.

The announcement also comes after Barca agreed a four-year deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten to become its main shirt sponsor from last season.