Eternal rivals Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are likely to come up against each other sending football fans around the world into a frenzy. Messi's Inter Miami have a two-game tour of Saudi Arabia as part of their pre-season friendly, the first match of which will be played against Al-Hilal on Monday.
The next game, scheduled for Thursday, will feature Messi and potentially Cristiano Ronaldo, his long-time rival if the Portuguese player recuperates from a calf injury in time to participate.
The two legendary players, Messi and Ronaldo, have competed against each other 35 times throughout their careers. Messi has emerged victorious 16 times, while Ronaldo has won 10 matches, with nine draws between them. In these encounters, Messi has scored 21 goals and provided 12 assists, whereas Ronaldo has netted 20 goals and contributed one assist.
The Al Nassr team, led by Portuguese manager Luis Castro, is currently in second place in the standings, trailing behind Al-Hilal. The team also includes notable players such as Sadio Mane and Aymeric Laporte.
Inter Miami CF participated in six preseason matches in Florida last season. Messi's Inter Miami will start their 2024 MLS campaign against Salt Lake on February 22.
In 2023, Messi departed Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and signed with the MLS team on a free transfer. During his time with Miami, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner netted 11 goals in 14 matches.
The player from Argentina claimed the Ligue 1 championship with PSG in 2023. Afterward, he moved to the Miami team and secured the 2023 Leagues Cup, which involves teams from the MLS and Mexico's Liga MX. On the way to this victory, he netted 10 goals.
Al-Hilal, set to face Inter Miami in their first match, holds the record for the most titles in Asia with 66 to its name. Currently leading the league, the team is under the guidance of former Sporting CP player and manager Jorge Jesus and features notable players like Neymar, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ruben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Malcom.
Regrettably, Neymar cannot play in Monday's match because of an ACL injury. This means he will be absent for the rest of the current season, a major setback for his club, Al-Hilal, who invested around 90 million Euros to acquire him for the Saudi Pro League. Neymar will now focus on recovering in time for the Copa America 2024, scheduled to begin in June in the US.