Barcelona will be hoping to remain at the top of the league charts after this weekend’s El Clasico, when the Blaugrana need to be up to speed at a Real Madrid side second on goal difference.
Special matches clearly call for special clothing choices, although few expected rap superstar Drake’s logo to appear on Barcelona’s kit for the colossal clash between Spain’s biggest clubs.
Drake himself says he’s stunned, telling his Instagram followers of more than 122 million: “It doesn’t feel real – but it is.”
What is the story behind the partnership? can you buy the shirt Here’s what we know so far about the surprise switch.
Why is Drake on the Barcelona shirt?
Barcelona kits have been branded with the Spotify logo this season as part of a big deal between the five-time Champions League winners and the audio streaming subscription service.
Now, Barca have ensured that the reigning FIFA Men’s Best Player, Robert Lewandowski, and his teammates step onto the pitch with a silhouette of an owl on their chest – the logo of Drake’s OVO brand.
The Canadian singer co-founded the Toronto-based record label in 2012 – the name stands for “October’s Very Own”.
The four-time Grammy Award winner became the first artist to surpass 50 billion streams on Spotify, and the club and service say his presence on the shirt is part of a plan to offer fans “innovative experiences” and through music to reach new audiences.
There are similarities to the deal another Spanish club, Atletico Madrid, made with Columbia Pictures for the 2003/04 season, when the logo on Atleti’s shirt was changed to reflect the release of 16 films over the course of the campaign.
That meant Fernando Torres and company wore logos promoting films like Spider-Man and Peter Pan, while Hollywood icons like Harrison Ford and Will Smith posed with shirts.
Intriguingly, Barcelona say their ‘sponsor’ will also change for the upcoming matchdays, so we can expect to see different Spotify artists on the front of the shirt as the campaign progresses.
The Drake design will also result in Barca players wearing a special version of the shirt during the pre-match warm-up, with the number 50 on the back and the Spotify logo instead of Drake’s symbol on the front.
“We were really looking forward to celebrating one of the biggest games of the year and marking Drake’s milestone as the first artist to reach 50 billion streams,” said Spotify Partnerships Chief Marc Hazan.
“We’ve always said we want this partnership to be a celebration of fans, players and artists on a global stage – and there’s no bigger stage than El Clasico.”
What is the Drake Curse?
From Juventus and Manchester City to the national teams of Italy and Mexico, Drake hasn’t been shy about wearing football shirts in the past.
A concern for Barca could be some fans’ suspicions that a ‘Drake curse’ has hit numerous teams and athletes the 35-year-old has been linked with.
Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are among soccer teams who have suffered defeats because of a photo of Drizzy with their jersey, while in US esports teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Kentucky Wildcats have felt the full brunt of it.
If Barcelona lose to Real Madrid we can say it was the Drake curse pic.twitter.com/kG9vzTjLDb
— Ziad is in NO pain (@Ziad_EJ) October 14, 2022
UFC megastar Conor McGregor was clearly beaten in the biggest fight of his career when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018 after attending the weigh-in with Drake and being assisted by the ringside artist that evening.
British heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua tweeted that he would break the curse before defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019.
It wouldn’t be that surprising if Barca lost to the reigning champions – but that won’t stop another potential avalanche of memes reviving talk of a hoodoo.
MORE: Barcelona vs Inter Milan result: Barcelona on Champions League brink after six-goal thriller
Is the Drake Barcelona kit for sale?
Curiously, for a concept with lucrative crossover appeal, the design isn’t commercially available.
Instead, Barcelona encourage fans to enter a competition to win one of the kits. Anyone who registers on the Barcelona website can enter a drawing to win a collector’s item that is sure to be valuable.
How much is the Spotify deal with Barcelona worth?
Spanish media have reported that the deal with Spotify is worth around £348m ($389m) for Barcelona, allowing the Swedish brand to appear on the front of men’s and women’s shirts and the stadium for four seasons Club known as Spotify Camp Nou for 12 years.
It’s no wonder the club’s assembly voted 89% in favor of the deal: Barca’s well-documented debts are said to have hit £1.2bn ($1.3bn) not long before Spotify – whose owner Daniel Ek previously owned – $) have expressed an interest in buying Arsenal – withdrawn.
That debt would have been deadly for most clubs in the world but Barca survived largely thanks to their status as an institution with one of the highest revenue streams in sport.
In his second term as club president, Joan Laporta has been cranking up Barca’s economic ‘levers’ in recent months, selling domestic TV rights to a US investment firm and almost 25% of its digital business and audiovisual productions to other buyers.
MORE: Lionel Messi back to Barcelona? Xavi and Joan Laporta are pushing for a potential return
The nadir of Barca’s near-disastrous financial plight came when all-time all-time goalscorer Lionel Messi was forced to bid a tearful public goodbye to the first club of his career because Barca were not allowed to sign a new contract with the icon under salary limit rules in Spain.
There was also a sense of farce at the start of the 2022/23 season when Barcelona struggled to register new players.
Barca’s maneuvers are said to have netted the club around £522m ($584m), although the likely exit from the Champions League in the group stage this season is expected to deal a severe financial blow to their recovery.
Despite the huge sum Spotify has squandered on Barca, the club’s marketing vice-president Juli Guiu calls it an ‘alliance’ that ‘goes beyond a mere commercial relationship’.
“As we have explained on numerous occasions, it is a strategic relationship through which we seek to bring together two worlds capable of arousing emotions,” he said. “Namely music and football.”