On January 19, in Riyadh, a select team made up of players from Cristiano Ronaldo’s new team Al Nassr and their Saudi rivals Al Hilal will play a friendly match against Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain, the French champions announced on Monday.
On January 17, PSG, a company controlled by Qatar, will fly to Doha before continuing on to Riyadh for the King Fahd Stadium showdown between Messi and Ronaldo.
After receiving a fortnight off following Argentina’s World Cup victory in Qatar in December, Messi rejoined PSG training last week.
In the meanwhile, Ronaldo, who turns 38 in February, just signed a deal with Al Nassr that goes until 2025 and is allegedly worth more than €200 million ($214 million).
His hiring by Frenchman Rudi Garcia’s Al Nassr team comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is working to raise the game’s reputation ahead of a potential joint bid with Greece and Egypt to host the 2030 World Cup.
In the past 15 years, Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the sport, sharing 12 Ballon d’Or victories.
During the nine years that they faced off in Spain while Messi was a star for Barcelona and Ronaldo for Real Madrid, their rivalry intensified. Riyadh organizations Al Hilal and Al Nassr are Saudi Arabia’s two most successful sides.
PSG have made a habit of travelling to Qatar in winter since the Gulf state bought the club in 2011. However, this trip comes despite the Ligue 1 leaders having a French Cup tie scheduled for the weekend of 21 and 22 January against lower-league opponents yet to be determined.