Lionel Messi’s first match with Inter Miami outside the U.S. could take place in Saudi Arabia when the club embarks on its debut international tour before the next MLS season.
Inter Miami will play matches against Saudi Pro League sides Al-Hilal SFC on Jan. 29 and Al Nassr FC on Feb. 1, the latter pitting Messi against longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo. The stars faced off in a similar fashion earlier this year in Saudi Arabia when Paris Saint- Germain beat a conglomeration of the best players from Hilal and Nassr 5-4 in a match that saw goals from Messi, Ronaldo, and Kylian Mbappe.
Both of Inter Miami’s games will take place at the 26,000-seat Kingdom Arena, meaning revenue generated from ticket sales could easily surpass $10 million, taking estimated ticket prices into account. However, specific financial terms of the deal weren’t released.
After the matches in Saudi Arabia, Inter Miami will continue on to Hong Kong, where the team will play a game against a collection of the best players from Hong Kong’s second-tier soccer league. The 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium will host the match on Feb. 4.
An Inter Miami announcement said more matches may be announced soon. Prior to the international tour, the club will travel to El Salvador to play that country’s national team on Jan.19, but it’s unclear whether Messi will suit up.
Inter Miami’s international schedule is filling up fast after initial plans to take Messi abroad were foiled.
A two-game tour in China was canceled last month, just four days before it was set to begin. That tour’s promoter cited the recent death of former Chinese premier Li Keqiang in explaining the cancellation, but there were also unconfirmed reports of venue issues for the matches.