A Saudi Arabian businessman has stumped up a whopping £2.2million to watch Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face off from the comfort of a VIP suite.
Ronaldo is due to make his first appearance since confirming his move to the Middle East by captaining an All-Star XI made up of players from his club, Al-Nassr, and capital city Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal. Messi, meanwhile, is expected to turn out for Paris Saint-Germain, despite their Ligue 1 season being in full flow.
As fans across the world salivate over the prospect of seeing the two footballing icons clash for what could be the final time, spectators are shelling out eye-watering amounts of money to enjoy Thursday evening’s match at the King Fahd International Stadium. There’s so much clamour in Saudi Arabia that a VIP ticket has been auctioned off for a whopping seven-figure fee.
Bidding started at a cool £220,000 and the unprecedented and lucrative package – not unlike Ronaldo’s £173m deal to sign for Al-Nassr – was eventually won by real estate businessman Musharraf bin Ahmed Al-Ghamdi with an offer of £2.2m. It’s believed to be the most expensive football ticket in history, with PSG superstars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar potentially on the billing, too.
The VIP ticket is part of a fundraising venture launched by Turki Al-Sheikh, who’s the head of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority. The proceeds will be donated to a charity, namely Saudi Arabia’s Ehsan fund.
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beIN Sports have acquired the rights across to broadcast the match live in all its territories, including the Middle East and North Africa, France, Turkey, Asia, North America, and Australasia to broadcast the game. UK fans, however, will only be able to catch highlights from the 5pm GMT kick-off.
PSG, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, are on a tour of the Middle East which will see the club earn a reported £8.7m. Christoph Galtier’ s side haven’t been in imperious form since French football resumed after the World Cup, losing two of their four league games.
Messi has featured in the two most recent matches, having returned to Paris after reaching the pinnacle of his prestigious career at the World Cup. The 35-year-old Argentine powered his nation to glory in Qatar, as they beat Mbappe’s France in the dramatic final thanks following a tense penalty shootout and 3-3 draw after extra-time.
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Ronaldo, on the other hand, is at the lowest ebb of his dwindling career. At 37, the Portuguese megastar has left European club football for the first time, although he insists that his decision to join Al-Nassr wasn’t fuelled by their mega-money offer.
“I had many opportunities in Europe, many clubs, in Brazil, in Australia, USA, even in Portugal there is many clubs who tried to sign me but I gave my word to this club,” Ronaldo claimed. “Not only to develop the football but other parts of the country.
“For me it’s a good challenge. I know what I want, I know what I don’t want. For me it’s a good chance to help with my knowledge and experience to grow many important points. I want to give a different vision of the country, of the football, of the perspective of everybody. This is why I’m here and why I took this opportunity.”