Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese footballer and five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has agreed to a seven-year deal with Saudi Arabia, as per reports by multiple outlets.

The reports claim that the 37-year-old will first be a player for the Riyadh-based club Al Nassr FC for two and half years. After that, he will be an ambassador for Saudi Arabia and will back the joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Greece and Egypt to host the 2030 World Cup.

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Lionel Messi, who is already on a commercial deal with the Saudis for promoting tourism in the country, was expected to be the face of the bid earlier. However, since Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay bid for the tournament in an effort to bring it back to South America, Messi will most likely be a part of it. 

When the South American nations’ bid to host the tournament was confirmed on July 29, 2017, Messi and then teammate in Barcelona, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, teamed up in order to back the bid. The following year, Fernando Marin, the co-coordinator of the bid, said that Messi would be the “flag bearer”.

“Messi has a unique power on and off the field. He is a brand for all of football, not for states,” Martin had said then.

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With Messi, who is arguably the most popular footballer on the planet, joining the South American bid for the tournament, the Arab state was under pressure to come up with a player who has comparable popularity to Messi. As a result, they decided to turn to Cristiano Ronaldo to be the face of their attempt. 

It is likely that the two most popular footballers of the previous generation will now face-off off the field as two rival groups of states bid to host football biggest tournament in 2030.