Ronaldo to make Saudi debut in all-star friendly against Messi’s PSG
Cristiano Ronaldo will captain an all-star combined team of Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal players on Thursday in a friendly against Paris Saint Germain, in his first match since moving to Saudi Arabia.
Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of the Saudi entertainment authority, announced Ronaldo’s captaincy by putting an armband on the Portuguese star in a video shared on Twitter.
It will mark the 37-year-old’s first start since he penned a $200m a year deal with Nassr that will make him the highest paid footballer of all time.
Ronaldo said earlier this month that his "work is done" in Europe, and that his move will help to develop the women's game and inspire younger generations in Saudi Arabia.
The exhibition match, which brings together Riyadh’s top two teams, will pit Ronaldo against longtime footballing rival Lionel Messi.
Messi and Ronaldo have shared 12 of the last 14 Ballon d’Or prizes for best individual footballer, comfortably making them two of the greatest players of all time.
Hilal and Nassr are huge local rivals, with the latter reportedly poking fun at Ronaldo earlier this month by printing shirts with Messi’s name.
The combined XI on Thursday will include former Porto striker Moussa Marega, Brazilian winger Matheus Pereira and Saudi star Salem al-Dawsari.
Dawsari already has experience defeating Messi, after scoring a goal in Saudi Arabia’s sensational group stage victory over Argentina during the World Cup group stages in November.
Thursday’s showdown at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh is sold out, with over two million people reportedly having requested a ticket.
An auction for a VIP “Beyond Imagination” ticket surpassed $2.7m on Tuesday.
The match will be aired on beIN Sports in Arabic, English and French across the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, North America, France, Turkey and Australasia.
Ronaldo’s first competitive match in the Saudi Pro League will come on Sunday when Nassr take on Al-Ettifaq.
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