Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi will be in action for Inter Miami at the upcoming Riyadh Season Cup. Marco Bello/Reuters

Football fans will get to witness Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo go head-to-head once again early next year in Saudi Arabia.

Messi's Inter Miami are set to travel to the Middle East in early 2024 as part of the club's preseason plans for the 2024 MLS campaign. Here they will face off against Ronaldo's Al Nassr as well as Al Hilal in the Riyadh Season Cup.

Inter Miami's game against Al Hilal will be held at the Kingdom Arena on January 29th, with players including Ruben Neves, Alexsandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic representing the Saudi Pro League side. Messi's former Barcelona teammate, Neymar, also plays his club football at Al Hilal, but the Brazilian is out of action for a lengthy period with an ACL injury.

Inter Miami will then take on Ronaldo and Al Nassr on February 1st, also at the Kingdom Arena. Ronaldo's teammates at Al Nassr include Sadio Mane and Aymeric Laporte.

Messi and Ronaldo have faced each other 35 times in the past 15 years, with the majority of those fixtures coming during both of the players' time in La Liga with Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.

The two superstars have faced off in Saudi Arabia before as the last Riyadh Season Cup saw Messi's former side, Paris Saint Germain, play against a Saudi All-Star XI that contained Al Hilal and Al Nassr players. PSG came out on top in a thrilling 5-4 win to win the cup, with Messi and Ronaldo both getting on the scoresheet.

Having been founded just five years ago, this will be the first time Inter Miami embark on an international preseason trip. With the game-changing addition of Messi to the franchise this past summer, Inter Miami will view the next few years as crucial to growing the club, in addition to the MLS and football as a whole in North America.

Messi and Ronaldo playing their club football in the United States and Saudi Arabia is pivotal for both countries in the long run as they both are set to host upcoming editions of the FIFA World Cup. The US will host the 2026 World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico whilst Saudi Arabia are in line to host the 2034 tournament.

The US and Saudi Arabia will want to appeal to bigger audiences and maximise their development as footballing nations whilst two of the greatest ever footballers play in their domestic leagues.

Inter Miami's Chief Business Officer, Xavier Asensi, spoke on the announcement of the club's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia. He said: "This is another major opportunity to create lasting relationships with passionate fans. We are excited to connect with new supporters in Saudi Arabia, and also hope people all over the world will be tuning in to see a pair of dream matches like these."

Inter Miami's Sporting Director and Chief Soccer Officer, Chris Henderson, added: "These matches will offer important tests for our team, which will benefit us as we approach the new season."

Inter Miami's preseason tour will also see them travel to El Salvador to take on their national team. They will also fly out to Hong Kong, where they will go up against the Hong Kong Team, which is made up of the best players from the Hong Kong First Division League.

These preseason friendlies are to help Inter Miami prepare themselves for the MLS season which is set to kick off in February 2024. This will be Messi's first full season in the MLS as he joined Inter Miami five months after the 2023 regular season had begun.

Last season, Messi helped Inter Miami win the 2023 Leagues Cup, which was the club's first-ever trophy. However, in the league, Inter Miami had a poor season as they finished second from bottom in the Eastern Conference standings for the regular season and subsequently missed the MLS Cup playoffs.

As well as the upcoming Riyadh Season Cup being a major opportunity for growth for Inter Miami, it is also part of Saudi Arabia's aim to continue showcasing itself as a major player in the global sports landscape. Ronaldo's move to Al Nassr in early 2023 was the start of the influx of footballing talent making its way to the Saudi Pro League.

The Riyadh Season Cup will form part of the current Riyadh Season in Saudi Arabia, which is an annual festival that takes place from October to March and celebrates sports and entertainment with an array of special events. As well as footballing events, there are set to be tennis, boxing and mixed martial arts events held in Riyadh over the coming weeks.

Al Nassr currently sit second in the Saudi Pro League, behind Al Hilal, who holds the top spot in the table. Ronaldo is at the top of the goalscoring charts with 16 league goals to his name so far whilst Mitrovic is in second place with 14 goals.