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Saudi businessman bids £2.2m to watch Ronaldo v Messi – and meet them

Saudi businessman bids £2.2m to watch Ronaldo v Messi – and meet them

  • Highest bidder will go into dressing rooms at friendly
  • Ronaldo left off Fifa Best awards shortlist for first time

A Saudi Arabian businessman is leading bidding to watch the latest chapter in Cristiano Ronaldo’s and Lionel Messi’s celebrated rivalry with a 10m riyals (£2.2m) offer for a ticket to next Thursday’s friendly.

The Saudi government’s entertainment arm said on Twitter that Mushref al-Ghamdi, general manager of the real estate group AqarOne, was the leader in an auction that ends on Tuesday. The “Beyond Imagination” ticket is for a match featuring a combined team from the Saudi clubs Al Nassr – who recently signed Ronaldo – and Al Hilal versus Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain.

The buyer of the ticket has the right to attend the winners’ ceremony, enter dressing rooms and meet the two men who for years have vied to be the world’s greatest.

The game in Riyadh will be the pair’s first on-pitch meeting since Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 in December 2020.

Though revenue from the auction is to go to charity, the event may fuel accusations of “sportswashing”: distracting attention from rights abuses by splashing money on sport.

As well as attracting Ronaldo, Saudi Arabia has signed up Messi as a tourism ambassador. PSG are owned by the Qatari government.

On Thursday Ronaldo was left off the 14-player shortlist for the annual Best Fifa men’s player award for the first time, with Messi and Kylian Mbappé among those selected.

Ronaldo won the Fifa award in 2016 and 2017 and was among the three finalists the following three years. This was the first time he was not selected as a contender by a Fifa-appointed expert panel. Last year’s winner Robert Lewandowski is on the list again, along with the Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema.

The Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas is among 14 nominees for the Best Fifa women’s player prize. The list also includes England’s Beth Mead, Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson and Australia’s Sam Kerr. Fans can vote for the award until 3 February.

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