Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the scoresheet in all-star PSG trip to Saudi Arabia
Portuguese star scored two as French side beat Saudi All-Star team
The battles between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came to define an era of football and they may now have met on the field for the final time as Paris Saint-Germain beat a Saudi All-Star team in a friendly.
The fixture in Saudi Arabia ended with a 5-4 win for the French team, which started with Messi himself getting on the scoresheet after only three minutes.
Ronaldo was the star attraction for the Middle Eastern side, which was led by coach Marcelo Gallardo.
With Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Messi in the line-up for Christophe Galtier's team, goals were always likely.
His well-timed run through the middle was spotted by Neymar and he rounded goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais with ease.
Ronaldo responded half an hour later from the penalty spot, with Marquinhos giving PSG the lead and Ronaldo again leveling before half-time.
Juan Bernat also saw red for the visitors in a game which also saw Neymar miss a penalty, making him the biggest star name not on the scoresheet.
Sergio Ramos stepped up to the occasion and scored PSG's third of the night, with Mbappe adding a fourth from the penalty spot before Hugo Ekitike made it five.
Saudi Arabian fight
The Saudi Arabian side did not give up and Hyun-Soo Jang's equaliser at 3-3 made sure that the crowd at the King Fahd International Stadium were entertained.
Anderson Talica added a ninth goal of the night in injury time, but it was Qatari-owned PSG who ran out the victors.
Messi goal to open scoring vs Saudi Arabia's All-Star XI: It didn't even take three minutes!
The Argentinian finished off a perfect pass from Neymar to put PSG ahead
If you wanted to see a special moment, that's what you've got. After a few glowing introductory touches, the exhibition match between PSG and the Saudi Arabian All-Star XI, sprung into life through Lionel Messi.
The Saudi team, which is a combination of stars from Al Nassr and Al Hilal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, got off to a strong start. However, it was a moment of brilliance from Messi that gave the Parisians the lead just three minutes into the match.
The goal was created by Neymar's perfect assist for the Argentinian star. A little pass so that Messi only had to place his shot and take advantage of the onrushing goalkeeper
Saudi Arabia also look to attract Messi with a higher wage than Cristiano Ronaldo
Al-Hilal and Al Itihad ready to offer 350m euros to the Argentine
Two teams in the Saudi Arabian league are determined to sign Leo Messi, with talk of sums that would exceed the money that Cristiano Ronaldo receives at Al Nassir.
Two teams are willing to pay the Argentine around 350 million euros per season. Al-Hilal (Riyadh) and Al Itihad (Jedah) are the teams that have asked for help from the government to be able to make the offer.
It so happens that both clubs are sanctioned by FIFA and cannot sign until next summer due to irregularities in different operations. In fact, Al-Hilal were the first club to approach Cristiano Ronaldo, but the punishment prevented them from going ahead with the possible signing and remained at Manchester United until November.
MARCA has been reporting everything that is moving in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr has led to an explosion of rumours.
Saudi Arabia are making a push
The CR7 deal will not be the last and now the other major players in Saudi Arabian football want to join this buying trend, as the country looks to grow in a sporting aspect.
The Argentine and PSG have already laid the groundwork for another season in France. Messi seems determined to continue competing for the top titles in Europe for another season, but the Saudi teams are not going to give up so easily. They have money, especially since the government has decided to make a clear commitment to football.
Other names that have appeared in recent weeks are those of Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Angel Di Maria, Isco and even Sergio Busquets, as well as Luis Enrique tipped to be appointed as a coach of a club side. As recently as Thursday, there was talk Mesut Ozil signing in Saudi Arabia.
Al Nassr rivals Al Hilal preparing offer to sign Messi
They are hoping to bring the Argentine to Saudi Arabia
Al Nassr's local rivals Al Hilal are reportedly interested in signing Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi. The Saudi club are willing to lure the 2022 World Cup winner to the country after their competitors managed to land Cristiano Ronaldo on a two-year deal.
Ronaldo parted ways with Manchester United by mutual consent after hitting out at his former coach Erik Ten Hag and the club's owner in a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.
According to Mundo Deportivo, Al Hilal have been preparing an offer that would see Messi earn $300 million per year in the event he agrees to move to the Saudi side.
It has to be noted that Messi is already linked to the country as he is currently Saudi's tourism ambassador.
"Lionel Messi wants you to unleash your inner emotion seeker and discover the unimaginable," reads the 'Visit Saudi' website.
"Whether you travel to discover new things or old things."
The Saudi government could reportedly help Al Hilal finance Messi's potential signing in their bid to boost football in the country.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Messi and PSG are close to reaching an agreement on a contract renewal that would see the Argentina legend stay at the club beyond this summer.
Messi's deal with the Ligue 1 giants expires at the end of the season, but he has yet to put pen to paper on a contract extension after winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo mania in Saudi Arabia
His arrival has transformed Al Nassr's expectations
Al Nassr have never won the Asian Champions League, they are not even the most successful club of the province of Riyadh, but with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo they have won over everyone in Saudi Arabia and abroad.
The arrival of the Portuguese star has transformed the club. While awaiting his debut, the team's store and sports city have been the first to experience the transformation.
"It's been a crazy few days. People filled the entire store, everything you see and outside was packed, we had to call members of the club's security to come and help us organize it," said the manager who has been serving customers at the Al Nassr store for the past four years.
"In the first days after his signing, we couldn't keep up, we had to ask for reinforcements because we were running out of jerseys, number 7s, everything."
We at MARCA were witnesses of that. Every person who enters the store comes to get a Cristiano Ronaldo jersey. Of the first team jersey, apart from those of the mannequins that decorate the store, there are no more.
"They're all sold out," he tells us, "and the second and third kits have arrived so we can fill the whole store."
He shows us a special edition, which he likes very much. He approaches us with a customer who has asked to see it, although he can only show it for now because they are not for sale.
The sports city is also preparing against the clock for the training sessions of the Portuguese forward. Everything has to be up to scratch.
Whereas only three media outlets a week would attend the press conferences of the coach and players, now more than 30 media outlets from all over Saudi Arabia and many foreign countries are present. And let's not talk about the games, let's remember that he has not yet made his debut.
New equipment, completely refurbished rooms... everything is going to change at Al Nassr. It is already changing.
The club's communication and organizational members are convinced of the great opportunity they have on their hands.