Ronaldo-Messi climactic clash in Riyadh


Messi vs Ronaldo in Riyadh Image: Coliseum GSVA

Football fans will be treated to a farewell feast in February 2024 after it was confirmed that the soccer legends Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face-off for the final time.

‘DAILY STAR’ stated that the fiercest footballing debate of this generation will be revived when Messi’s Inter Miami CF (US) travel to Riyadh next year for a one-off clash against Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr FC (Saudi Arabia). An exact date for the showdown is yet to be announced, but football romantics the world over will be waiting with bated breath at the prospect of a reunion between the two best players of the past 20 years.

Lionel Andrés Messi, also known as Leo Messi, is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for and captains both the Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami CF and the Argentina national team.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays as a forward for and captains both the Saudi Pro League (the highest division of association football in the Saudi league system) club Al-Nassr FC and the Portugal national team.

‘DAILY STAR’ further stated that ‘The Last Dance’ will form part of the Riyadh Season Cup, and while it may be billed as a ‘friendly’, one can bet the two headline stars will see it as anything but ‘friendly’. Messi has won 16 of the 36 competitive clashes between the longtime rivals to date, while Ronaldo has emerged on the winning side in just 11 of those encounters.

The Riyadh Season Cup is the footballing crown jewel of Saudi Arabia which is hosted under the umbrella of Riyadh Season, a Government-sponsored sports and entertainment festival.

The much-anticipated meeting will take place a little more than a year after the two last faced off in January 2023. And both players got on the score sheet on that occasion when the Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (France) edged a Riyadh All-Star XI 5-4 (also in the Saudi Arabian capital).

That was the sixth straight clash between the pair in which at least one of them has found the back of the net. And supporters will be hoping both the veterans have a prominent hand to play in what will almost definitely be their final on-field face-off.

Both Ronaldo, 38, and Messi, 36, are contracted to their respective clubs until 2025. However, any opportunities to stage matchups between their clubs are sure to dry up in the next couple of years.

Talk over the fixture was predictably feisty after the fixture was announced, with some suggesting it would be an “easy win” for Inter Miami. Many Ronaldo loyalists took the opposite view, however, as one X user forecasted “another date for Ronaldo to continue is dominance in this debate”.

Some suggested it was Ronaldo who kept pushing for chances to meet his old nemesis as one social media user wrote, “From Al-Nasr vs. PSG to Al-Nasr vs. Inter Miami. Why is this guy obsessed with Messi?”

‘The Last Dance’ is a nod to the name legendary National Basketball Association (NBA) Coach Phil Jackson gave to his final year leading the Chicago Bulls. Jackson entered the 1997-1998 seasons knowing full well he and Michael Jordan would likely move on at its climax, and there’s a sense this will also be a swansong of epic proportions.

The LaLiga clubs FC Barcelona (Spain) legend Messi and the Real Madrid CF icon Ronaldo have been responsible for arguably the greatest rivalry football has witnessed, even eclipsing the age-old debate between the Brazilian professional footballer Pelé and the Argentine football player Diego Maradona disciples. The pair have each won just about every trophy available to them and won a combined 13 Ballon d’Ors (a record eight for Messi and five for Ronaldo).

The Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by the French news magazine ‘France Football’ since 1956 and co-organized alongside the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) since 2024. Between 2010 and 2015, in an agreement with FIFA, the award was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year and known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

Although next year’s climactic clash won’t provide any conclusive answers to that war, fans will be glad of at least one more head-to-head between the two Greatest of All Time (GOATs) of modern football. The battle lines have been drawn ahead of what promises to be a fateful showdown – though tickets could be hard to come by.

That is, assuming it does go ahead. Hours after the announcement, Inter Miami released a contradicting statement which read, “Earlier today (November 21st), an announcement was issued stating that the Inter Miami CF is scheduled to play in the Riyadh Season Cup. This is inaccurate. The release included statements attributed to team owner Jorge Mas. Mas have made no comments, publicly or privately, in relation to the preseason tour.”

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