Inter Miami DENY they have agreed to play in Saudi Arabian preseason tournament that would see Lionel Messi face off against Cristiano Ronaldo… as team release statement refuting ‘inaccurate’ reports

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Inter Miami shutdown reports that the MLS side will compete in the Riyadh Season Cup in a statement Tuesday evening. 

Earlier on Tuesday, it was announced that Lionel Messi and co. were set to play against Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia in a blockbuster friendly game in February.

The game was being billed as ‘The Last Dance’ in what would have been likely the final match-up between two of the all-time greats of the sport. 

However, Inter Miami released a statement refuting their participation in the prospective showdown, blasting the claim as ‘inaccurate.’

The statement said, via ESPN, that team owner Jorge Mas ‘has made no comments, publicly or privately, in relation to the preseason tour.’

Inter Miami shutdown reports that the MLS side will compete in the Riyadh Season Cup

Inter Miami shutdown reports that the MLS side will compete in the Riyadh Season Cup

The team said owner Jorge Mas (R) has made no comments on the preseason tour

The team said owner Jorge Mas (R) has made no comments on the preseason tour 

The game would likely have been the last ever featuring Messi and Ronaldo on opposing teams

The game would likely have been the last ever featuring Messi and Ronaldo on opposing teams 

The supposed blockbuster clash had been unveiled by Turki Alalshikh, the Chairman of General Authority for Entertainment’ for the Saudi Government and owner of LaLiga side Almeria.

Alalshikh had tweeted out an advertisement for the game featuring Messi and Ronaldo front and center with the caption: ‘It’s the last dance of football greatness! Ronaldo vs Messi clash on the pitch. Watch Inter Miami FC compete against Al-Nassr FC in the Riyadh Season Cup.’ 

A press release followed, claiming that Miami has been confirmed as ‘the guest international side’ for the three-team, round-robin competition. 

In the release, Alalshikh also said: ‘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.

‘The excitement and global interest that we expect this tournament to generate expands upon one of our main aspirations for Riyadh Season – to create international events that visitors to Riyadh and fans around the world can all enjoy.’

However, the Herons later contradicted the announcement from the proposed hosts. 

‘Earlier today, an announcement was issued stating that Inter Miami CF is scheduled to play in the Riyadh Season Cup. This is inaccurate,’ the statement read in full. 

‘The release included statements attributed to team owner Jorge Mas. Mas has made no comments, publicly or privately, in relation to the preseason tour.

The supposed blockbuster clash had been unveiled by Turki Alalshikh, the Chairman of General Authority for Entertainment' for the Saudi Government, on Twitter

The supposed blockbuster clash had been unveiled by Turki Alalshikh, the Chairman of General Authority for Entertainment’ for the Saudi Government, on Twitter

Ronaldo, and partner Georgina Rodriguez, headed to Saudi Arabia in December 2022

Ronaldo, and partner Georgina Rodriguez, headed to Saudi Arabia in December 2022

Messi, pictured with wife Antonela, was at one stage tipped to follow Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia

Messi, pictured with wife Antonela, was at one stage tipped to follow Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia 

Messi was expected to follow but instead joined Inter Miami and quickly won the Leagues Cup

Messi was expected to follow but instead joined Inter Miami and quickly won the Leagues Cup

‘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. We look forward to showcasing our players on Inter Miami CF’s first international tour which will be announced in the coming weeks.’

The game would have pitted Ronaldo against two other former Barcelona favorites in Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as Messi.

Messi, now 36, carved out the bulk of his legacy at Barcelona while Ronaldo, 38, hit similar heights at fierce rivals Real Madrid, after moving from Manchester United in 2009.

The Inter Miami man was targeted by the Saudi league and widely expected to follow Ronaldo there this year before ultimately deciding to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team.

Ronaldo signed for Al Nassr in December 2022 following a bitter split from United in his second spell at the club.

The Portugal star is paid around $75million a year on a deal that runs until 2025. 

Messi would have earned similar wages in the Saudi league – more than in the United States – but he still earns between $50-60million in Miami on a two-year contract with an option for a third season. 

His deal is bankrolled in part by adidas and Apple, with Messi getting a cut from shirt sales and Apple television subscriptions to watch MLS.

Messi was presented with his eighth Ballon d'Or in October by David Beckham in Paris

Messi was presented with his eighth Ballon d’Or in October by David Beckham in Paris 

He paraded the trophy to Miami's fans at the DRV PNK Stadium earlier this month

He paraded the trophy to Miami’s fans at the DRV PNK Stadium earlier this month 

Messi and his team failed to reach the MLS playoffs after a disastrous start to the season but they still won the Leagues Cup and made it to the final of the US Open Cup.

Ronaldo’s Al Nassr team has ex-Liverpool and Bayern Munich attacker Sadio Mane, as well as former Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte, Ronaldo’s ex-United teammate Alex Telles and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.

Al Hilal, the proposed other team in the competition, have Brazil star Neymar but, if the tournament even takes place, he will not feature due to his torn ACL. 

Miami have long been mooted with playing some lucrative overseas friendlies ahead of next year’s MLS season.

A post-season tour of China was scrapped earlier this month and instead, they played New York City FC at their DRV PNK Stadium to commemorate Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or. 

The Mas brothers, who own the club alongside Beckham, have also spoken of arranging a friendly with Barcelona at the Nou Camp to allow Messi to bid farewell to the fans on the field. They are also set to play a friendly against Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s boyhood team in Argentina.

The debate between who is better out of Messi and Ronaldo has polarized fans throughout the course of their storied career.

Messi was won a World Cup with Argentina – Ronaldo has not with Portugal, but he did win the European Championship in 2016. Messi also has a Copa America to his name.

Ronaldo was the first major star to head to the Saudi league - many have since followed

Ronaldo was the first major star to head to the Saudi league – many have since followed 

Ronaldo has more Champions League titles though – winning the tournament five times, four at Madrid and once in Manchester. Messi won the competition four times with Barcelona but missed the 2006 final – the first to his name – through injury.

Messi won Spain’s LaLiga 10 times in 16 seasons with Barcelona, while Ronaldo won it twice in nine years there.

Messi, of course, also has eight Ballon d’Ors to the five of Ronaldo. Messi’s most recent one this year was awarded to him by Beckham at a ceremony in Paris.

Ronaldo considers himself a trail blazer by joining the Saudi league – the first major star to do so – and back in July said the standard is better than what Messi contends with in the US.

‘The Saudi league is better than MLS,’ Ronaldo said after his team lost 5-0 to Celta Vigo in a friendly.

‘Now all the players are coming here. In one year, more top players will come to Saudi Arabia.’

Messi and Ronaldo's career paths have crossed on many occasions over the years

Messi and Ronaldo’s career paths have crossed on many occasions over the years 

Messi, meanwhile, has said that the lifestyle in the US was a key factor behind his move to Miami. 

‘People in this city and this club have made it easy for us,’ Messi said in August of his move. ‘The fans, the people that I meet every day on the streets in the city where we are now… it’s a spectacular city, and that’s why I can live with happiness.

‘We are in that adaptation period, the kids are going to school soon, and that will help to get to the end of that adjustment, and get used to daily life.

‘It’s only a small period to complete the adaptation, but it’s been much easier than we thought.’



Post source: Daily mail

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