It won’t be Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo after all.
Neither of soccer’s greatest players will appear in today’s highly anticipated match, available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, at the Riyadh Season Cup in Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Messi will not play after feeling discomfort following Monday’s match against Al Hilal and Wednesday’s training session in Saudi Arabia. Ronaldo was ruled out Wednesday because of a calf injury.
Messi had an MRI, and will be held out as a precaution as Inter Miami prepares for the 2024 MLS season, according to a club spokesman. Messi will be on Inter Miami’s bench and is listed on the lineup as a potential substitute.
So, soccer fans worldwide will not be treated to “The Last Dance” or potentially the final match between Messi and Ronaldo. And they won’t get to see Messi in action once more this week.
It’s unclear how much Messi will play as Inter Miami continues their worldwide preseason tour with a match in Hong Kong on Feb. 4 at 3 a.m. ET and Tokyo on Feb. 8 at 5 a.m. ET.
Fans at Kingdom Arena in Saudi Arabia exploded when Lionel Messi got up off the bench to warm up his legs on the sideline.
It’s unclear if Messi will actually play despite Inter Miami wanting to keep him out of this match as a precaution.
If Messi does play, he’ll appear sometime within the final 20 minutes of the match.
Al Nassr’s Mohammed Maran scored on a beautiful header in the 68th minute to take a 5-0 lead.
The good news for fans in Saudi Arabia: Lionel Messi has got up to stretch and warm up as a potential substitute.
Inter Miami misses chances in second half: Al Nassr 4, Inter Miami 0
Luis Suárez missed a shot on goal in 60th minute after Al Nassr goalie Waleed Abdullah deflected the attempt. Suárez even shook Abdullah’s hand after the sequence.
Three minutes later, Leo Campana missed high in 63rd minute.
It’s just been that kinda day for Inter Miami.
Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar received a penalty for a diving contest in the penalty area.
And Al Nassr’s Talisca made him pay with a goal on the ensuing penalty kick for his second score of the match.
Although it’s preseason, Inter Miami’s 4-0 deficit is easily the largest in the Messi era.
Cristiano Ronaldo has celebrated plenty, while Lionel Messi looked concern.
It was supposed to be a match between soccer’s greatest stars. Instead, they’re both onlookers in this one.
Al Nassr scored three goals in the first 12 minutes, and cruised to a 3-0 halftime lead against Inter Miami on Thursday during their match at the Riyadh Season Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Messi is watching from the bench, and not expected to play despite being listed on Inter Miami’s roster as an available substitute.
Messi felt discomfort after Inter Miami’s match against Al Hilal on Monday, and during Wednesday’s training session. He’s being held out as a precaution.
Ronaldo was ruled out on Wednesday due to a calf injury.
Otávio scored in the third minute, Talisca scored in the 10th, and Laporte scored in the 12th minute for Al Nassr. Laporte’s goal from about 75 yards out with Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar wandering far from the net has been the highlight of the match.
Luis Suárez had a shot on goal, Leo Campana missed two chances and David Ruiz – who sparked Inter Miami’s comeback against Al Hilal Tuesday – also missed an opportunity for Inter Miami in the first half.
Inter Miami newcomer Luis Suárez was kicked in the lower right leg, and was down in pain.
He remains in the match, but could likely be an early substitute as this match continues.
Here’s Lionel Messi’s reaction to the play:
Inter Miami may have an opening in this match in the 31st minute.
Al Nassr goalie David Ospina has been substituted after feeling discomfort following a challenge of Luis Suarez’s shot attempt on goal.
Backup Waleed Abdullah has entered the game for Al Nassr.
Inter Miami is surely getting plenty of social media engagement following their 3-0 deficit to Al Nassr on Thursday afternoon.
Just look at this snapshot of the action with fans replying to posts about the score:
Inter Miami goalie Drake Callendar was caught too far away from the net.
And Al Nassr made him pay.
Al Nassr’s Aymeric Laporte scored in the 12th minute from about 75 yards out, and Inter Miami is down 3-0 in Saudi Arabia.
Cristiano Ronaldo loves what he sees, watching from a luxury box in the stadium.
Brazilian star Talisca scored in the 10th minute to give Al Nassr a 2-0 lead against Inter Miami.
Wait, there’s more.
Four minutes in, and Inter Miami is already down.
Al Nassr’s Otávio scored in the fourth minute to take a 1-0 lead in this match.
It’s the third straight match this preseason Inter Miami has fallen behind in the opening minutes.
Inter Miami star Lionel Messi’s Super Bowl commercial with Michelob Ultra released on Wednesday, staring Pro Football Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis.
Check it out here:
Messi has played in the last two Riyadh Season Cups, where he faced Ronaldo last year, and has a major fan base in Saudi Arabia. Messi recently starred in a commercial for Saudi tourism.
It’s feasible to believe Messi and Inter Miami could be open to another trip to Saudi Arabia for their 2025 preseason, and a matchup against Ronaldo and Al Nassr would earn the same hype and excitement as this year’s matchup before Ronaldo’s injury.
Messi is under contract with Inter Miami through 2025, while Ronaldo is under contract with Al Nassr through June 2025. But will their health hold up?
Ronaldo’s calf injury caused Al Nassr to cancel two preseason matches in China last week. And it has cost soccer fans worldwide another opportunity to see Ronaldo and Messi on the same pitch together.
Al Nassr coach Luis Castro told reporters on Wednesday: Ronaldo “is in the final part of his recovery to join the group. We hope that in the next few days you can start working with the team. He will be absent from the game.”
How did Messi, Inter Miami fare against Al Hilal on Tuesday?
The look on Messi’s face was priceless after Inter Miami gave up a 2-0 lead to Saudi powerhouse Al Hilal within the first 13 minutes of their match Tuesday.
Messi was stunned. It appeared Inter Miami may have bit off more than it could chew for its first of two matches in the Riyadh Season Cup. But they responded.
Messi scored on a penalty kick and rising 19-year-old David Ruiz scored a goal to help Inter Miami storm back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the match at 3. Luis Suárez scored his first Inter Miami goal in the first half.
Unfortunately for Inter Miami, Al Hilal’s Malcom – who played with Messi and Suárez in Barcelona in 2018-19 – scored the game-winning goal just seconds after Messi left the pitch in the 88th minute as a substitution.
Although Inter Miami lost 4-3 to Al Hilal, the club was provided with valuable game experience it can carry into the 2024 MLS season.
“We’re trying to still get better. We have a lot of ways to go, in terms of before the season kicks off, so we have some good games coming up,” said Inter Miami newcomer Julian Gressel, who won the MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew last season.
“This was a good test against us, where we got exposed in certain ways, and that’s a good thing. That’s what you want to happen in the preseason so when the season rolls around, you’re up for the challenges, and then you’re ready to go.”
What is Inter Miami’s upcoming schedule?
After Thursday’s match in Saudi Arabia, Inter Miami’s worldwide preseason tour continues with a match in Hong Kong on Feb. 4 at 3 a.m. ET and Tokyo on Feb. 8 at 5 a.m. ET.
Inter Miami will finish its preseason at home on Feb. 15 against Newell’s Old Boys – the Argentine hometown club of Messi and coach Tata Martino.
First appeared on www.usatoday.com