ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Cristiano Ronaldo is set to play in Saudi Arabia tomorrow for the first time since joining Al Nassr after he was named as captain of Riyadh ST XI for an exhibition match against Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), officials announced on Monday.
The 37-year-old Portuguese striker will lead the team made up of players from Saudi sides Al Hilal and Al Nassr against Messi’s PSG in what will be the latest chapter of the celebrated global football rivalry.
The confirmation of the match came in the form of a tweet, from the account of Saudi Arabia’s current chairman of general authority for entertainment Turki Al-Sheikh.
A video was attached showing the five-time Ballon d’Or winner receiving the armband and his shirt for the friendly.
The line-up also features Saudi internationals Salem Al-Dawsari, who scored in the shock group-stage win over Argentina in the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and Saud Abdulhamid.
The highly anticipated showdown, which reportedly had more than two million online ticket requests, will take place in Riyadh.
The bidding for a VIP “Beyond Imagination” ticket to the match has already topped SAR10 million in an auction.
The game will be the first time Ronaldo and Messi have faced off since December 2020, when the Portuguese was on the winning side as his Juventus team beat Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League.
Media reports have said that Messi has received offers from Al-Hilal, with the Saudi club eager to sign the Argentinian and re-ignite his rivalry with Ronaldo. Al-Ittihad are also reportedly keen on a deal to bring Messi to the Middle East.
Ronaldo missed the first two domestic games for Al Nassr after being suspended by England’s Football Association for knocking a phone out of a fan’s hand in April.
He arrived at the Arab team earlier in January on a deal until 2025 estimated by media to be worth more than EUR200 million.
Ronaldo is also set to make his first competitive appearance in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday when Al Nassr host Al Ettifaq.