Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to renew rivalry in Riyadh Season Cup

Inter Miami and Al Nassr to play friendly at Kingdom Arena as part of new tournament

Lionel Messi, left, and Inter Miami, will face Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr in a friendly this February. Photos: AFP
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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will renew their rivalry after it was revealed that Inter Miami will face Al Nassr in a friendly in Saudi Arabia next February.

The game, part of a new tournament called the Riyadh Season Cup, was announced in a statement by Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority on Tuesday evening. Al Nassr's Saudi Pro League rivals Al Hilal complete the line-up for the three-team competition.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone from Inter Miami in February for the Riyadh Season Cup, which will bring together a number of the biggest international stars from across all three clubs competing," the statement read.

“The excitement and global interest that we expect this tournament to generate expands upon one of our main aspirations for Riyadh Season – to create international events that visitors to Riyadh and fans around the world can all enjoy.”

The Al Nassr-Inter Miami game, branded "The Last Dance" on social media, will take place at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh in early February. It could well be the last time Ronaldo and Messi face one another.

Messi, 36, spent the majority of his career with Barcelona where he regularly battled arch-rivals Real Madrid, who were spearheaded by Ronaldo, 38, between 2009 and 2018.

Their personal rivalry also extended to the quest for individual awards, chiefly the Ballon d'Or, with Messi now owning eight following his success in the 2023 poll and Ronaldo having five, the last of which came in 2017.

Now in the twilight of their careers, the two men have taken their talents to new territories in recent years. Ronaldo has been in fine goalscoring form since joining Al Nassr in December 2022, while Messi has starred in the MLS having signed for Inter Miami in June.

Back in January, Ronaldo made his first appearance in Saudi Arabia when a Riyadh All-Star XI lost 5-4 to a Paris Saint-Germain side featuring Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Riyadh Season, the kingdom's celebration of arts, culture and entertainment, has become a hotbed of big sporting events, with this high-profile game following the Tyson Fury v Francis Ngannou exhibition bout and the announcement of two further star-studded boxing shows.

Updated: November 21, 2023, 6:54 PM