Antelope Valley Press

Messi vs. Ronaldo rivalry could be rekindled in Saudi Arabia


MANCHESTER, England — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could resume their longstandi­ng rivalry in a tournament being staged in Saudi Arabia in February.

Organizers of the Riyadh Season Cup said Tuesday that Messi’s Inter Miami is expected to play in the three-team event.

Miami called the announceme­nt “inaccurate” and said it had been determinin­g its preseason schedule. But the prospect of Messi vs. Ronaldo was already being pushed in Saudi Arabia.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone from Inter Miami in February for the Riyadh Season Cup, which will bring together a number of the biggest internatio­nal stars from across all three clubs competing,” said Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainm­ent Authority.

Messi has promoted tourism in Saudi Arabia and in May was suspended by former club Paris Saint-Germain for making an unauthoriz­ed trip to the country. He also played in this year’s Riyadh Season Cup when PSG was the guest team.

Ronaldo’s Al Nassr and Neymar’s Al-Hilal will take part in February’s event, organizers said.

Inter Miami has confirmed it will embark on an internatio­nal tour but did not reveal details.

“Since day one, Inter Miami CF has set out to be a global brand. To this end, we have been in conversati­ons to determine our 2024 preseason schedule,” it said. “We look forward to showcasing our players on Inter Miami CF’s first internatio­nal tour which will be announced in the coming weeks.”

Saudi Arabia has made a major push to be a big player in world soccer by signing some of the game’s biggest players amid allegation­s of sportswash­ing. But it couldn’t lure Messi to the oil-rich kingdom when he left PSG at the end of last season, with the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner opting to move to MLS instead.

Messi, who led Argentina to triumph at last year’s World Cup, has already won his first trophy with the David Beckham co-owned Miami — the Leagues Cup in August.

Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered to be two of the greatest players of all-time and competed against each other for soccer’s biggest prizes during their prime years at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respective­ly.

Both have left European soccer behind but have shown little sign of giving up their ambition to add to their legacies.

Ronaldo has led Portugal to next year’s European Championsh­ip and Messi will be aiming to retain the Copa America for Argentina at next year’s tournament.

The Riyadh Season Cup is scheduled to be held in the first week of February at Kingdom Arena.

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