FC Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique on Thursday visited Rakuten Inc.'s Tokyo headquarters to commemorate the start of a four-year shirt sponsorship by the Japanese e-commerce company.

"It's more than a partnership. We consider them family," Pique, who was also joined by teammates Neymar and Arda Turan, said at a press conference packed with cameramen and reporters.

"We have the same values, the same philosophy. We have the same thoughts about not just playing, but having fun. Not just working but enjoying what we are doing," Pique said.

The 220 million euro ($250 million) sponsorship deal, with the option for a one-year extension, has the company's name featured prominently on the front of the shirt.

"Barcelona is a very special team. This deal will change the Rakuten brand," said CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. "We are sure there will be a good return on investment."

The deal is part of Rakuten's push to boost its name recognition and expand its business abroad. Its e-commerce website is a household name in Japan but is much less known overseas.