- Nasima Akter
Lionel Messi to Visit Saudi Arabia in March
Lionel Messi is headed back to Saudi Arabia this March, much to the excitement of football fans in the Kingdom. It will be the player's third time in the country in less than a year. This time, the Paris Saint-Germain forward will be heading over to explore some of the country's most beautiful tourism destinations and connect with its people.
The football legend's first visit to Saudi Arabia was in May 2021 to attend events in Jeddah as part of his ambassadorial role. Messi's last visit in January saw him playing a friendly match with PSG against a team of Saudi League stars, where he faced off against long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Statements on Messi's Visit
The announcement of the player's visit comes just hours after Messi's team's exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich. This time around, Messi will be accompanied by his family and friends.
Saudi Arabia's Minister of Tourism, Ahmed al-Khateeb, couldn't contain his excitement, taking to Twitter to share the news. "I am happy to welcome our Tourism Ambassador and star Lionel Messi and his family and friends this month on his second visit to Saudi to enjoy our most beautiful tourism destinations, connect with our people and enjoy unique experiences!" he wrote.
According to Ramon Diaz, the coach of Al Hilal, the growing significance of Saudi football has the potential to attract the world's top players, and he hopes to see Lionel Messi playing in Saudi Arabia as well.
Diaz's comments came after Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Al Nassr last year, which has sparked excitement about the possibility of a renewed rivalry between the two football giants in the Saudi League. "The presence of Ronaldo makes us believe that Messi may come to Saudi Arabia as well," Diaz said.
The move to name Messi as the Saudi Tourism Ambassador is just one part of the government's push to put the country on the map as a must-visit destination for travelers from around the world. Messi’s visit is likely to take place during the international break, which follows his PSG side's league game on Sunday, March 19.
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And it's not just Messi who's been making headlines in the world of football in Saudi Arabia. Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo recently joined the Kingdom's Al Nassr football club in Riyadh, making him one of the highest-paid players in the game.
His signing with the club also led to Saudi Arabia's hopes of seeing a renewed rivalry with Messi in the Saudi League. So far, Al Hilal and Al Ittihad have expressed interest in signing the world champion.
While it is unlikely that he will be able to watch long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo play for Al Nassr due to the break in the Saudi Pro League, a collaboration between the two stars is not out of the question, as both are paid to promote Saudi tourism.
Exictement for Lionel Messi's arrival in Saudi Arabia is also clear among fans, as shown by a recent match where Al Ittihad supporters chanted the player's name. All eyes will be on Messi as he embarks on his journey to Saudi Arabia later this month.