Lionel Messi and Inter Miami to play Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr in a friendly billed as ‘The Last Dance’ in Saudi Arabia next February
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will play against Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia in a blockbuster friendly game in February.
The game is being billed as ‘The Last Dance’ in what is likely the final match-up between two of the all-time greats of the sport. At present, no further date is given other than the game being held in February.
Messi, now 36, carved out the bulk of his legacy at Barcelona while Ronaldo, 38, hit similar heights at fierce rivals Real Madrid, after moving from Manchester United in 2009.
The Inter Miami man was targeted by the Saudi league and widely expected to follow Ronaldo there this year before ultimately deciding to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team.
Ronaldo signed for Al Nassr in December 2022 following a bitter split from United in his second spell at the club.
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will play against Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia
The game will likely be the last ever featuring Messi and Ronaldo on opposing teams
Ronaldo headed to the Saudi league with Al Nassr for massive money in December 2022
Messi was expected to follow but instead joined Inter Miami and quickly won the Leagues Cup
The Portugal star is paid around $75million a year on a deal that runs until 2025.
Messi would have earned similar wages in the Saudi league – more than in the United States – but he still earns between $50-60million in Miami on a two-year contract with an option for a third season.
His deal is bankrolled in part by adidas and Apple, with Messi getting a cut from shirt sales and Apple television subscriptions to watch MLS.
Messi and his team failed to reach the MLS playoffs after a disastrous start to the season but they still won the Leagues Cup and made it to the final of the US Open Cup.
The game will also see Ronaldo face two other Barcelona favorites in Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, who followed Messi to Miami.
And by the time the game comes around in February, Luis Suarez could be involved as well with the striker heavily linked with a move to the MLS side from Brazilian team Gremio.
Ronaldo’s Al Nassr team has ex-Liverpool and Bayern Munich attacker Sadio Mane, as well as former Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte, Ronaldo’s ex-United teammate Alex Telles and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.
Miami have long been mooted with playing some lucrative overseas friendlies ahead of next year’s MLS season.
Messi and Ronaldo’s career paths have crossed on many occasions over the years
Messi, pictured with wife Antonela, was at one stage tipped to follow Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia
Ronaldo, and partner Georgina Rodriguez, headed to Saudi Arabia in December 2022
A post-season tour of China was scrapped earlier this month and instead, they played New York City FC at their DRV PNK Stadium to commemorate Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or.
The Mas brothers, who own the club alongside Beckham, have also spoken of arranging a friendly with Barcelona at the Nou Camp to allow Messi to bid farewell to the fans on the field.
The debate between who is better out of Messi and Ronaldo has polarized fans throughout the course of their storied career.
Messi was won a World Cup with Argentina – Ronaldo has not with Portugal, but he did win the European Championship in 2016. Messi also has a Copa America to his name.
Ronaldo has more Champions League titles though – winning the tournament five times, four at Madrid and once in Manchester. Messi won the competition four times with Barcelona but missed the 2006 final – the first to his name – through injury.
Messi won Spain’s LaLiga 10 times in 16 seasons with Barcelona, while Ronaldo won it twice in nine years there.
Messi, of course, also has eight ballon d’Ors to the five of Ronaldo. Messi’s most recent one this year was awarded to him by Beckham at a ceremony in Paris.
Ronaldo considers himself a trail blazer by joining the Saudi league – the first major star to do so – and back in July said the standard is better than what Messi contends with in the US.
‘The Saudi league is better than MLS,’ Ronaldo said after his team lost 5-0 to Celta Vigo in a friendly.
‘Now all the players are coming here. In one year, more top players will come to Saudi Arabia.’
Messi, meanwhile, has said that the lifestyle in the US was a key factor behind his move to Miami.
‘People in this city and this club have made it easy for us,’ Messi said in August of his move. ‘The fans, the people that I meet every day on the streets in the city where we are now… it’s a spectacular city, and that’s why I can live with happiness.
‘We are in that adaptation period, the kids are going to school soon, and that will help to get to the end of that adjustment, and get used to daily life.
‘It’s only a small period to complete the adaptation, but it’s been much easier than we thought.’
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