Saudi businessman bids £2.2m to watch Ronaldo v Messi

Guwahati: A businessman from Saudi Arabia is driving up the price in the race to witness the newest chapter in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s storied rivalry with an offer of 10 million Saudi riyals (£2.2 million) for a ticket to next Thursday’s friendly.

The general manager of the real estate company AqarOne, Mushref al-Ghamdi, was named the winner of an auction that closes on Tuesday, according to a tweet from the Saudi government’s entertainment department. The “Beyond Imagination” ticket is for a match between Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain against a combined team from the Saudi teams Al Nassr and Al Hilal, who recently recruited Ronaldo.

The ticket holder is entitled to attend the awards ceremony, visit the dressing rooms and interact with the two athletes who have been vying for the title of greatest in the world for years.

It will be the teams’ first on-field encounter since Juventus defeated Barcelona 3-0 in December 2020 when they play in Riyadh.

Despite the fact that the auction’s proceeds will benefit a good cause, the occasion can give rise to claims of “sportswashing”—the practise of using sport to draw attention away from human rights violations.

Messi has been appointed by Saudi Arabia as a tourist ambassador in addition to luring Ronaldo there. The government of Qatar owns PSG.

Ronaldo was omitted from the 14-player shortlist for the Best Fifa Men’s Player award on Thursday for the first time, joining Messi and Kylian Mbappé.

Ronaldo was among the three finalists the next three years and went on to win the Fifa award in 2016 and 2017. This was the first time a Fifa-appointed expert panel did not choose him as a contender. Along with the Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, the winner from the previous year, Robert Lewandowski, is once again on the list.

Alexia Putellas, the Ballon d’Or winner, is one of 14 candidates for the Best Fifa Women’s Player award. The list also includes Sam Kerr from Australia and Beth Mead, Keira Walsh, and Leah Williamson from England. Voting for the award is open to fans until February 3rd.

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