One of the greatest rivalries in soccer history is set to resume at the unlikely venue of Riyadh’s King Fahd Interna-tional Stadium.
The stage is set Thursday for Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo when Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain takes on a combined XI of Saudi Arabian teams Al Nassr and Al Hilal in an exhibition match.
Riyadh is where Ronaldo has decided to base possibly the final years of his storied career after signing a deal worth a reported $200 million-a-year to join Al Nassr.
The game against Messi and PSG offers a reminder of the Portugal international’s glory days before Ronaldo fo-cuses on Al Nassr’s domestic title challenge and bid to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
The Messi-Ronaldo rivalry was never greater than when they played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, and their scoring feats saw the players dominate Spanish and European soccer.
The showdown with Messi in these circumstances would have been unthinkable just a year ago when Ronaldo was still scoring with regularity for an albeit struggling Manchester United team.
Messi and Ronaldo have experienced vastly differing fortunes over the last 12 months. Messi finally won the World Cup with Argentina in December. Ronaldo was dropped by club and country, had his United contract terminated and eventually joined Al Nassr in one of the most surprising moves in soccer history.
It will be Ronaldo’s first action in Saudi Arabia after serving a two-match suspension issued by the English Football Association for slapping a mobile phone out of the hand of a fan after a match between Man United and Everton last April.—APP