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Ronaldo misses highly anticipated Messi showdown in Riyadh

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the highly anticipated friendly match between his team, Al Nassr, and Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami on Thursday due to a calf injury.

Al Nassr coach Luis Castro confirmed that the Portuguese superstar is in the final stages of recovery but won’t be fit in time for the game, the final match of the Riyadh Season Cup. The coach expects Ronaldo to train with the team in the next few days.

“Ronaldo is in the final stages of recovery before returning to the team,” he said on Wednesday at the press conference before the game. “Hopefully Ronaldo can train with the team in the next few days. However, he will miss the match against Inter Miami.”

Al Nassr’s match against Inter Miami is the final match in the Riyadh Season Cup friendly tournament being played in Saudi Arabia. In their previous match on Jan. 29, Miami lost 3-4 to Al Hilal.

This was a potential last chance for 38-year-old Ronaldo and 36-year-old Messi to face each other. Their last encounter was a friendly in January 2023 when Messi’s PSG played against a Riyadh All-Star team featuring Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo scored twice, his team ultimately lost 4-5.

Prior to this injury, Ronaldo’s last appearance was on December 30, where he scored a stoppage-time goal in a 4-1 win against Al Taawoun. This goal secured his title as the world’s top scorer for 2023, with an impressive 54 goals to his name (10 for Portugal, 44 for Al Nassr).

Interestingly, in their 37 encounters, including friendlies, Messi holds the edge with 17 wins compared to Ronaldo’s 11. They have drawn nine times, and even more remarkably, both have scored 23 goals against each other.

Despite Ronaldo’s absence, Inter Miami boasts a strong lineup with stars like Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba all fit and set to play.

This injury also led to the cancellation of two friendlies for Al Nassr in China on Jan 24 and Jan 28. Ronaldo personally apologized to Chinese fans and promised to return when he recovers.

After the match against Al Nassr, Inter Miami will continue their pre-season campaign in Hong Kong and Japan before returning to the US for the 2024 MLS season.