A Saudi real estate tycoon has reportedly paid $2.6 million (SR 10 million) at an auction for a ticket to watch Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi play in a friendly.
Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain will face off on Thursday in Riyadh against a team comprised of players from Ronaldo’s new club Al Nassr and their Saudi rivals Al Hilal.
According to sources close to the club, Ronaldo signed a contract with Al Nassr that extends through 2025 and is worth more than 200 million euros ($214 million). This will be his first football match in the kingdom.
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, will make his Saudi Pro League debut for Al Nassr this coming Sunday.
A Royal Court advisor and the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Turki al-Sheikh, has announced a charity auction for a unique ticket to Thursday’s friendly, which includes meet-and-greets with the players and access to the locker rooms.
On Tuesday night, the bidding began at 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,000) and ended at 11:30 p.m. local time.
Al-Sheikh revealed on Twitter that the successful bidder was real estate businessman Mushref Al Ghamdi, who had offered 10 million riyals ($2.6 million).
“Congratulations, you deserve it, and may God reward you with good,” Sheikh said.
The Ehsan national charity campaign will receive the proceeds from the auction.
PSG stars, including France forward Kylian Mbappe and Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi, who helped the team become the first Arab and African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals last year in Qatar, are anticipated to play alongside Messi on Thursday.
Salem Al-Dawsari, who scored the game-winning goal in the Green Falcons’ shocking group-stage victory over Argentina, is a member of the Saudi squad.
Many people believe that Saudi Arabia is “sportswashing,” or using sports to deflect attention away from human rights concerns. The country has been buying sports assets as part of a campaign to soften its austere image.