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Special ticket for Ronaldo v Messi match fetches $2.6 mln in Saudi Arabia



Croatia v Morocco – Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar – December 17, 2022 Fans are pictured wearing headpieces depicting Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

A Saudi Arabian businessman won the bidding to watch the latest chapter in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s celebrated rivalry in global soccer with a 10 million riyals ($2.66 million) bid for a ticket to their showpiece game.

The Saudi government’s entertainment arm said on Twitter that Mushref Al-Ghamdi, general manager of real estate group AqarOne, was the highest bidder for a “Beyond Imagination” ticket.

The winner will attend Thursday’s match in Riyadh featuring a combined team from Saudi clubs Al Nassr – who recently signed Ronaldo – and Al Hilal versus Messi’s Paris St Germain in the duo’s first on-pitch meeting since Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 in December 2020.

Winning bidder Al-Ghamdi will attend the winner’s ceremony after the match, enter the dressing rooms, and meet the two players who for years have vied to be the world’s greatest.

Though revenue from the auction will go to charity, the event could also fuel accusations of “sportswashing” by Saudi Arabia — distracting attention from rights abuses by splashing money on sport.


As well as attracting Ronaldo, Saudi Arabia have signed up Messi as a tourism ambassador. Paris St Germain is owned by the Qatari government, which has just staged the World Cup.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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