A Saudi Arabian businessman is said to have bid $2.6 million to see Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi play in a friendly in Riyadh.
A charity auction had taken place for the “Riyadh Season Cup” exhibition on Thursday between Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain and a combined side comprising players from Ronaldo's new club Al Nassr and their city rivals Al Hilal.
The game will be staged at King Fahd Stadium, and represents Ronaldo’s first match in Saudi since last month signing for Nassr in one of the most lucrative transfers in football history. Ronaldo is expected to captain the “Riyadh ST XI” side.
Turki Al Sheikh, an advisor at the Royal Court and head of Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority, had earlier this month announced the auction for a VIP ticket, entitled “Beyond Imagination”.
The ticket provides a series of benefits, such as photo opportunities with players and access to the respective dressing rooms.
Bidding started at 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,000), with the auction closing on Tuesday night. The proceeds are to go to the national charity campaign, “Ehsan”.
Announcing the news on Twitter, Al Sheikh said a winning bid of 10 million riyals had come from a real-estate entrepreneur Mushref Al Ghamdi.
"Congratulations, you deserve it, and may God reward you with good," Al Sheikh wrote.
The match, which will be broadcast on BeIn Sports, had reportedly more than two million online ticket requests. A number of Saudi Arabia’s 2022 World Cup stars will line up alongside Ronaldo on Thursday, including Salem Al Dawsari – scorer of the winner in their group opener against Argentina – and Saud Abdulhamid.
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, is set to make his first competitive appearance for Nassr on Sunday, when the Saudi Pro League leaders host Al Ettifaq at Mrsool Park in Riyadh.
The former Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward, 37, has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Nassr, said to be worth more than $200m per year.