Inter Miami to play in Saudi Arabia, setting up Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo clash

Lionel Messi will take on Cristiano Ronaldo in February when his Inter Miami team travels to Saudi Arabia. (Sam Navarro/Reuters)

Amid the backdrop of sportswashing, Inter Miami will visit Saudi Arabia in 2024, renewing the rivalry between soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Inter Miami confirmed Monday that it will participate in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Season Cup as part of an international tour showcasing the MLS team built around Messi. There, Inter Miami will play games against Al-Hilal SFC and Ronaldo's Al Nassr FC.

Inter Miami will take on Al-Hilal on Jan. 29 and face Al Nassr on Feb. 1 in a match that should garner international attention focused on the clash between the world's two best players from the past 15 years. Both games are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET (9 p.m. local time).

Assuming that both players are available, the Al Nassr-Inter Miami match will mark the 36th time Ronaldo and Messi have faced off. Messi's teams have won 16 of the matchups, and Ronaldo's teams have won 10. The other nine matches finished in a draw.

Messi has tallied 21 goals and 12 assists in the matchups, while Ronaldo has posted 20 goals and one assist. Messi (8) and Ronaldo (5) have combined to win the Ballon d'Or, honoring soccer's best player, 13 times. Their most recent matchup was a friendly in Saudi Arabia in January.

Messi reportedly declined overtures from Saudi Arabia that included a $400 million contract offer as a free agent in the spring. He instead signed with Inter Miami in June in a shocking decision that brought the world's most prominent player to MLS over Saudi Arabia and La Liga's Barcelona.

In December 2022, Ronaldo signed a two-year deal to join Al Nassr after parting with the Premier League's Manchester United. Ronaldo joined the club amid mounting criticism of broad sportswashing efforts to legitimize a Saudi regime with a considerable track record of human rights abuses.