Football stars: Messi against Ronaldo: PR of superlatives in the Saudis

To top off the Saudi Arabian football promotion days, football giants Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face what may be their last duel.

Football stars: Messi against Ronaldo: PR of superlatives in the Saudis

To top off the Saudi Arabian football promotion days, football giants Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face what may be their last duel.

Paris Saint-Germain, led by the Argentinian world champions, against an all-star team made up of players from new Ronaldo employers Al-Nassr and rival Al-Hilal. And all this in the King Fahd Stadium of the rich and disputed desert state. "Riyadh, capital of football," wrote Italy's "La Gazzetta dello Sport" before the game this Thursday (6:00 p.m. CET).

It will be Ronaldo's first game since moving to Saudi Arabia. And it could be the last of many years of worldwide attention-grabbing duel between the 37-year-old Portuguese and the 35-year-old Argentine, who is still in Qatar - the home country of the PSG owner and the country of his World Cup - before the friendly match with PSG -Triumphs less than a month ago.

High entry fee

According to the Argentine newspaper "Olé", the two have met 36 times in their careers, mostly in important games. The 37th time is all about prestige, PR and a lot of money. PSG should receive a little more than ten million euros for the trip to Saudi Arabia, after the second away defeat in a row in Ligue 1. "When economic and sporting interests are not a good match," commented "L'Équipe".

It remains to be seen how sensible the trip with the flight at night, arrival early Wednesday morning, show training in Qatar on the same day, the game on Thursday and the return journey to Paris is from a fitness point of view. After all, the round of 16 first leg in the Champions League in Paris against the German record champions FC Bayern Munich is just under a month away. In any case, the former RB Leipzig professional Nordi Mukiele and Italy's Marco Verratti, among others, did not even go on the short trip.

In addition to Messi and Ronaldo, other names in the Paris world selection such as Neymar Kylian Mbappé should almost fade anyway. The fact that Messi, as the advertising face of a tourism campaign, also has a business connection to Saudi Arabia, the country that inflicted the only defeat on him and the Argentines in the opening game at the World Cup, makes the reunion of the multiple world footballers even more remarkable.

Especially because Saudi Arabia could become a candidate rival for a South American bid with Argentina and Uruguay as well as Paraguay and Chile for the anniversary World Cup in 2030 - 100 years after the first World Cup (Uruguay). According to media reports, Ronaldo had rejected a corresponding offer at the time, Messi accepted it.

Already Supercups in Saudi Arabia

And when the two meet again, even without great sporting value, it becomes a big event. To get in the mood, Saudi Arabia had secured nothing less than the Spanish (Sunday) and Italian (Wednesday) Supercup at König Fahd Stadium between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid as well as AC and Inter Milan.

The Portuguese sports newspaper "A Bola" also recalled the last duel between Messi and Ronaldo. Ronaldo had won 3-0 with Juventus at FC Barcelona with Messi in the group stage in December 2020 - also thanks to Ronaldo's two penalty goals.

According to media reports, the demand for tickets for the Riyadh Season Cup was huge, with two million inquiries. Around 70,000 fans only have room in the King Fahd Stadium. One who will also be there is said to have bought his special ticket at a charity auction. The real estate tycoon paid 10 million riyals - the equivalent of around 2.5 million euros. According to a report by Al Arabiya, bidding started at one million riyals. After all, a meeting with Messi and Ronaldo is also included.

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