The exhibition match was held in the capital of Saudi Arabia and saw the two stars renew their rivalry for perhaps the last time.
Despite being a friendly, the match played out at a furious pace as the packed crowd inside King Fahd Stadium were treated to a goal-fest between the French champions and a team made up of the best players from the local Saudi league.
It was Messi who opened the scoring with a fine finish within three minutes before Ronaldo equalized from the penalty spot after colliding with PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Then Juan Bernat was sent off for the French giants after dropping Salem Al-Dosari as the last player, before defender Marquinhos restored Paris Saint-Germain’s lead by converting a brilliant cross from Kylian Mbappe.
The incredible feat continued as Neymar saw a penalty saved before Ronaldo leveled it at 2-2 before the break when he reacted quicker after an initial header hit the post.
The Portugal international has yet to make his first appearance since moving to Al-Nassr after the World Cup, but he delighted fans on Thursday with a trademark celebration.
The 37-year-old is set to make his debut on Sunday as Al Nassr host Al Ettifaq at Marsool Park.
There was no slacking in the second half as Sergio Ramos restored PSG’s lead after more fine work from Mbappe, before Jang Hyun-soo equalized again.
Mbappe then made it onto the scoresheet himself after converting another penalty before both Ronaldo and Messi were substituted on the hour mark.
Even without the two big names on the pitch, the game continued at a frantic pace and youngster Hugo Iquiteq eventually knocked PSG out of the sight after calmly finishing off a counter-attack.
However, there was still time for Anderson’s Talisca to turn a long-distance effort that ended up being little more than consolation.
The exhibition game was more than the organizers could have dreamed of, with all the top stars playing a part in an exciting encounter.
Abdulaziz Al-Afaleq, President of the Saudi Professional League, said: “Our league players enjoyed the opportunity to use their talents against some of the best players in the world, such as Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Ashraf Hakimi, and of course, Lionel Messi.” in the current situation.
“Supported by the incredibly passionate fans at King Fahd International Stadium, the Saudi Professional League players put on a performance they can be proud of that showed the power of Saudi football.”
However, the match was criticized by AI, who said the game was another example of a match Sports wash – A phenomenon where corrupt or authoritarian regimes invest in sports and sporting events to soften their international reputation – from both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which funds Paris Saint-Germain through Qatar Sports Investments.
“The diversion of large sums of money for Ronaldo to Al-Nassr and Messi by the Saudi authorities as an ambassador for tourism is part of Riyadh’s aggressive sports programme, as the authorities seek to exploit the appeal of celebrities to elite sport to deflect attention from the country’s appalling human rights,” said Peter Frankenthal, director of economic affairs at Amnesty International. In the United Kingdom, in a statement.
He added: “Saudi Arabia’s heavy use of sport as an exercise of soft power is well known, but with the emergence of Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in Riyadh, we have two sports washing superpowers – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – flexing their muscles.
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have poured huge sums of money into sporting ventures in an effort to rebrand themselves and divert international attention away from their human rights record – efforts that have only been partially successful.
“Footballers like Ronaldo and Messi have huge profiles and we’d love to see them fight back against their use as celebrity faces of sportswashing, including speaking out on human rights issues in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”