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Messi and Ronaldo to Square Off in Saudi Arabia as Inter Miami Takes on Al-Nassr

Football fans around the globe are eagerly anticipating a monumental clash as legendary players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo prepare to renew their historic rivalry. Inter Miami is set to face Al-Nassr in a pre-season friendly scheduled as part of the Riyadh Season Cup in Saudi Arabia in February. Additionally, Inter Miami will lock horns with Al-Hilal on January 29 in what promises to be a series of exciting matchups.

Initially hesitant to confirm their participation in the tournament when plans were unveiled in November, Inter Miami’s sporting director, Chris Henderson, has since expressed genuine excitement about the upcoming challenges. Henderson stated, “These matches will be crucial tests for our team.We’re excited for our gathering to have the chance to contend with groups of the type of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr.

The football titans, Lionel at 36 and Ronaldo at 38, first crossed paths in 2008 during the Champions League semi-finals when Manchester United emerged victorious over Barcelona. Since then, these iconic forwards have faced each other 34 times, with Lionel securing 16 victories, Ronaldo claiming 10, and nine matches ending in a draw.

Highlighting their contributions in these encounters,Lionel has notched an impressive 21 goals and provided 12 assists, while Ronaldo boasts 20 goals and one assist. Inter Miami, having finished 14th in the Eastern Conference last season, clinched the Leagues Cup, with Messi making a significant impact by scoring 10 goals in seven games after joining the club in July.

The Riyadh Season Cup marks another chapter in Saudi Arabia’s growing involvement in football, marked by high-profile signings including Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante, and Jordan Henderson joining Saudi Pro League clubs in recent years. Despite this, critics argue that such investments serve as a form of ‘sportswashing,’ diverting attention from the Kingdom’s longstanding reputation issues, including human rights concerns, the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the continuous conflict in Yemen.

Responding to these claims, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, dismissed them as “very shallow.” As the football world eagerly awaits the clash between Messi and Ronaldo, the stage is set for a thrilling encounter in the heart of Saudi Arabia.

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