Miami denies agreement for Messi, Ronaldo friendly in Saudi

Who will come out on top when Brazil takes on Argentina? (2:14)

Luis Miguel Echegaray previews the next round of CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, including the important matchup between Brazil and Argentina. (2:14)

Inter Miami has denied that it agreed to participate in the Riyadh Season Cup friendly tournament in February 2024 against Al Nassr, which could have seen Lionel Messi face off with great rival Cristiano Ronaldo one last time.

Event organizers in Saudi Arabia had announced "The Last Dance" event via social media at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh with no exact dates yet set. The post was later deleted.

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Miami, though, said later on Tuesday that no agreement had been reached.

"Earlier today, an announcement was issued stating that Inter Miami CF is scheduled to play in the Riyadh Season Cup. This is inaccurate," the Inter Miami CF Communications Department said in a statement. "The release included statements attributed to team owner Jorge Mas. Mas has made no comments, publicly or privately, in relation to the preseason tour.

"Since day one, Inter Miami CF has set out to be a global brand. To this end, we have been in conversations to determine our 2024 preseason schedule. We look forward to showcasing our players on Inter Miami CF's first international tour which will be announced in the coming weeks."

The earlier announcement said the three-team tournament would be completed by Neymar's Al Hilal, although the Brazil international was unlikely to feature after tearing an ACL last month.

"The excitement and global interest that we expect this tournament to generate expands upon one of our main aspirations for Riyadh Season -- to create international events that visitors to Riyadh and fans around the world can all enjoy," said Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority.

Saudi Arabia has made a major push to be a big player in world football by signing some of the game's biggest players. But it couldn't lure Messi to the oil-rich kingdom when he left Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season, with the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner opting to move to MLS instead.

The last time the two LaLiga rivals played against each other was at this tournament on Jan. 19, 2023, in Riyadh.

Messi took part in last season's Riyadh Season Cup with PSG and also came up against Ronaldo after the Portugal great's surprise move to Al Nassr. PSG won the match 5-4.

In May, Messi was fined and suspended by the French club for taking an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.

Messi, who led Argentina to triumph at last year's World Cup, has already won his first trophy with David Beckham co-owned Miami -- the Leagues Cup in August.

Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered to be two of the greatest players of all time and competed against each other for football's biggest prizes during their prime years at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.

Both have left European football behind but have shown little sign of giving up their ambition to add to their legacies.

Ronaldo has led Portugal to qualify for next year's European Championship, and Messi will be aiming to retain the Copa América for Argentina at next year's tournament.

Sadio Mané has also joined Al Nassr as part of Saudi Arabia's drive to lure more star names amid allegations of sportswashing.

Although Neymar is recovering from surgery, Al Hilal should still have Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in their lineup.

The Riyadh Season Cup is scheduled to be held in the first week of February at Kingdom Arena. The schedule was not announced, but the three teams involved will play in a round-robin tournament.

Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson said Monday that nothing had been finalised or was ready to be announced about the team's preseason plans.

It will resume training in the second week of January, with the expectation that the MLS season will begin in late February. Henderson said he thought the team would need between four and six preseason matches, split between the U.S. and overseas.

The club had plans to play two matches in China earlier this month, but that trip -- which could have led to more than 100,000 tickets being sold -- fell through for logistical reasons.

Inter Miami didn't make any international tours in its first three seasons; getting Messi in Year 4 changed everything.

"I really felt like, overnight, we became a global club," Henderson said Monday. "Eyes all over the world are watching what we're doing. And what comes with that are these tours and preseason opportunities that we have as a club, so we're working closely with the front office as they negotiate some of those preseason tours."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.