Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been rivals throughout their entire careers, and every time they take the field against one another the match immediately becomes appointment viewing.
As both have departed Europe for the final stages of their club careers, matchups between the two have been few and far between, so fans had been looking forward to another meeting between the two GOATs of world football.
Messi’s MLS club Inter Miami travel to Saudi Arabia to meet Ronaldo’s team Al Nassr for a friendly in early February, as part of a two-game visit for Inter Miami to Riyadh. Unfortunately for fans, we now know that Ronaldo won’t be playing in the match due to injury.
The Sporting News brings you all the details on the highly anticipated matchup between this generation’s most iconic players.
MORE: Recap the 5-4 thriller between Messi’s PSG and Ronaldo’s Al Nassr from a year ago
When is Messi vs Ronaldo friendly?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were due to meet in a Riyadh Season Cup exhibition match between Inter Miami and Al Nassr in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday, February 1 at 1 p.m. ET (9 p.m. local time in Saudi Arabia). The game is still going ahead, even though Ronaldo is sidelined with injury.
The match will fall in the middle of Inter Miami’s preseason slate, as they ready themselves for the 2024 campaign. It comes as the second of a two-game slate for Inter Miami against Saudi clubs, as they first met league leaders Al Hilal on January 29. Neymar is a member of the Al Hilal squad, but he missed the match as he recovers from his torn ACL.
For Al Nassr, the match falls in the middle of their winter break, as they do not have any league fixtures scheduled between December 30 and February 15. They will use this match to help ready themselves for the season run-in, as they chase Al Hilal in the league table and compete in the AFC Champions League knockout stage.
What is the Riyadh Season Cup?
Riyadh Season is a state-sponsored entertainment and sports festival put on by the Saudi government which takes place across the nation’s capital at some point during the winter, usually between October and March. The Riyadh Season Cup is an annual showcase match that’s played during the heart of the Riyadh Season festival.
Started in 2019, the inaugural Riyadh Season went from October through January with the nation pulling in 10 million combined visitors to the event. It featured 12 different “zones” across Riyadh that held various events, including car shows, restaurant pop-ups, fairgrounds, and plenty of other shows, including sporting events such as WWE.
Last season, the event held a friendly between a Riyadh Season Team and PSG that pitted Messi against Ronaldo.
The 2020/21 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Riyadh Season festival returned in late 2021, lasting the full season and featuring a larger area and new events such as a video game festival and a Pitbull concert.
The 2021/22 event was also meant to feature the first PSG visit as the French side was to come and play the Al Hilal / Al Nassr All-Stars, in what would have been the first of an annual friendly match. However, it was eventually postponed due to COVID-19 related restrictions, and PSG came to visit for the showcase last season to deliver on the highly anticipated matchup between Messi and Ronaldo.
Inter Miami preseason friendly schedule
Inter Miami’s first confirmed friendly of the 2024 preseason saw the club travel to San Sebastian to take on the El Salvador national team on January 19.
They lost their first Riyadh Season Cup match 4-3 against Al Hilal and take on Al Nassr before heading east to Hong Kong to play a match against an all-star squad from the Hong Kong First Division.
After that, Inter Miami will head to Tokyo to face Japanese champions Vissel Kobe, where former Barcelona and VK midfielder Andres Iniesta will be a special guest.
There are also a few more preseason fixtures reported to be in the works for Inter Miami. There are reports of more matches to come in their tour of Asia, while games against Argentine clubs Newell’s Old Boys and River Plate are rumored to be possibilities but not yet announced.
Inter Miami 2024 friendly schedule
|Fri, Jan. 19, 2024
|Inter Miami vs. El Salvador
(San Salvador, El Salvador)
|Mon, Jan. 29, 2024
|Al Hilal vs. Inter Miami
(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
|Thu, Feb. 1, 2024
|Al Nassr vs. Inter Miami
(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
|Sun, Feb. 4, 2024
|Hong Kong All Stars vs. Inter Miami
|Hong Kong Stadium
(Causeway Bay, Hong Kong)
|Wed, Feb. 7, 2024
|Vissel Kobe vs. Inter Miami
|Japan National Stadium
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo matchup history
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are this generation’s most legendary players, and their rivalry has been well-documented throughout the last two decades.
The two have squared off 35 times across their careers in competitive club matches, with Messi winning 16 times to Ronaldo’s 10, plus nine draws. Messi claimed the most recent face-off as PSG won their friendly matchup 5-4 in Riyadh last time around.
In their career matchups, Messi has scored 21 goals and 12 assists, while Ronaldo has logged 20 goals and one assist in those 35 games. If we include the Riyad Season game from last year and a couple of Argentian vs. Portugal friendlies in the calculations, they are on 23 goals apiece against one another.
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