One of the best rivalries in soccer historical past is ready to renew on the unlikely venue of Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium.
The stage is ready Thursday for Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo when Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain takes on a mixed XI of Saudi Arabian groups Al Nassr and Al Hilal in an exhibition match.
Riyadh is the place Ronaldo has determined to base probably the ultimate years of his storied profession after signing a deal price a reported $200 million US a 12 months to hitch Al Nassr.
The sport towards Messi and PSG provides a reminder of the Portugal worldwide’s glory days earlier than Ronaldo focuses on Al Nassr’s home title problem and bid to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
The Messi-Ronaldo rivalry was by no means better than after they performed for Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, and their scoring feats noticed the gamers dominate Spanish and European soccer.
The showdown with Messi in these circumstances would have been unthinkable only a 12 months in the past when Ronaldo was nonetheless scoring with regularity for an albeit struggling Manchester United group.
Messi and Ronaldo have skilled vastly differing fortunes during the last 12 months. Messi lastly gained the World Cup with Argentina in December. Ronaldo was dropped by membership and nation, had his United contract terminated and ultimately joined Al Nassr in one of the vital shocking strikes in soccer historical past.
It can be Ronaldo’s first motion in Saudi Arabia after serving a two-match suspension issued by the English Football Association for slapping a cell phone out of the hand of a fan after a match between Man United and Everton final April.
His debut for Saudi league chief Al Nassr is ready for Sunday towards Ettifaq.
Ronaldo is not going to be quick on motivation when developing towards Messi and an all-star PSG group which might additionally embody Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
He has already been handed his trademark No. 7 shirt and the armband in what seems like a becoming strategy to kick off his newest journey.
It can be an opportunity to make an announcement towards among the finest gamers on the planet, versus who he’ll face within the Saudi league, which represents a step down after his profession in elite European soccer.
The 37-year-old ahead, who was offered to Al Nassr’s supporters to nice fanfare earlier this month, is dealing with questions over his skill to rediscover his kind after a disappointing first half of the season for United and an underwhelming World Cup.
Lionel Messi holds the FIFA World Cup trophy in the course of the arrival of the Argentina males’s nationwide soccer group on Dec. 20, 2022. (Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
Ronaldo managed solely three objectives in 16 appearances for United earlier than his explosive interview with Piers Morgan, by which he criticized supervisor Erik ten Hag and the membership’s homeowners, led to the termination of his contract.
With a chance to place himself in the marketplace on the World Cup, he was dropped by Portugal as his nation suffered a shock elimination by Morocco within the quarterfinals and sure ended his final likelihood of successful the one main trophy that has eluded him. Ronaldo did turn into the primary males’s participant to attain at 5 totally different World Cups.
Messi can be aiming to win back-to-back French league titles with PSG and will but lead the Paris membership to its first Champions League success.
While Ronaldo mentioned he rejected provides from around the globe to hitch Al Nassr, it’s not identified if any curiosity got here from Europe’s largest golf equipment.
The Saudi transfer is more likely to take him out of the highlight for the primary time since he established himself in his first spell at United in 2003.
Impressive trophy circumstances
The Riyadh Season Cup, which is at stake on Thursday, will no less than be a chance to showcase his expertise in a match more likely to appeal to widespread curiosity given his rivalry with Messi as the 2 most interesting gamers of their technology. Between them they’ve shared 12 Ballon d’Or awards — Messi seven, Ronaldo 5.
Ronaldo has the sting within the Champions League, successful European membership soccer’s largest trophy 5 instances, in comparison with Messi’s 4.
In whole they’ve gained 56 main trophies between them, which has made it so tough to separate them when making an attempt to find out who’s the best of their technology.
However, Messi’s inspirational performances in main Argentina to the World Cup trophy in Qatar in December strengthens his case to have the sting on his nice rival.
Nothing that occurs on Thursday in Riyadh is more likely to transfer the dial both manner on that argument. It might, nonetheless, supply Ronaldo the prospect to remind his doubters that he can nonetheless go toe-to-toe with Messi.