Al Nassr thrash Inter Miami as Ronaldo, Messi watch on

Al Nassr crushed Inter Miami 6-0 as injury ruled Cristiano Ronaldo out of a much-hyped showdown with Lionel Messi, who was limited to a late substitute appearance in Thursday’s friendly in Riyadh.

Ronaldo’s calf injury prompted Al Nassr to cancel their two-game China tour last week and it denied him what could have potentially been a last match against longtime rival Messi.

The pair have won a combined 13 Ballon d’Or awards, with Messi taking home the prize for a record eighth time last year. Their most recent meeting came in January 2023 when Ronaldo played in a Saudi select team beaten 5-4 by Messi’s PSG.

Instead, Brazilian Talisca upstaged the illustrious duo with a hat-trick as the Saudi Pro League side demolished their Major League Soccer opponents, scoring three times in the first 12 minutes.

Otavio drilled in the opener as Miami lost the ball trying to play out from the back, bringing Ronaldo to his feet to applaud from the stands.

A sliding Talisca turned in Al Nassr’s second as the visitors again paid the price for conceding possession near their own box.

Aymeric Laporte scored the goal of the night, catching Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender off his line as he belted in a long-range free-kick from deep inside his own half.

Talisca got his second from the penalty spot minutes after half-time and Mohammed Maran looped in a header to compound Miami’s misery.

The American side were clearly feeling the effects of a globe-trotting pre-season tour, but the gulf in class was also stark, despite the presence of former Barcelona stars Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Talisca completed his treble and performed Ronaldo’s signature celebration, before Messi trotted on for the final seven minutes with his team trailing by six goals.

Miami continue their preparations for the new MLS season, which starts February 21, by heading to Asia for games in Hong Kong and Japan.

They played El Salvador and fellow MLS side FC Dallas before flying to the Middle East. BSS

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