Cristiano Ronaldo scores 50th goal of 2023 as potential Lionel Messi clash is announced

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 11: Cristiano Ronaldo of Al Nassr celebrates after scoring a goal during the King Cup Quarter-Final match between Al Shabab and Al Nassr at Al-Shabab Club Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 11, 2023. (Photo by Mohammed Saad/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Al Shabab.Mohammed Saad/Anadolu/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 50th goal of the calendar year on Monday as Al Nassr advanced to the semifinals of the Saudi King Cup with a 5-2 victory against rival Al Shabab.

Ronaldo netted his team’s fourth goal with a powerful strike in the 74th minute, continuing his impressive scoring rate since playing his first game in Saudi Arabia in January.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, center right, escapes Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

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“Great victory and I’m thrilled to announce my 50th goal in 2023, all thanks to the unwavering support of my teammates, fans, and my family!” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram. “There’s still room for a few more this year.”

Al Shabab had a chance to take an early lead in Riyadh but Yannick Carrasco slipped while taking a penalty and could only watch as his effort flew over the bar.

Seko Fofana gave the visiting side the lead soon after before Carlos Júnior equalized with a powerful header from a corner.

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Al Nassr responded well, however, as former Liverpool and Bayern Munich striker Sadio Mané finished off an excellent counterattacking move and Abdulrahman Ghareeb tapped in from Marcelo Brozović’s cross right before halftime.

Ronaldo made it 4-1 in the second half but Al Shabab pulled one back in the final moments as Hattan Bahebri scored from a rebound. It made no difference to the result with Mohammed Maran completing the scoring in stoppage time with a simple finish.

Nassr's Portuguese forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo vies for the ball with Shabab's Saudi defender #27 Fawaz Al-Sagour during the King Cup quarter-final football match between Al-Shabab and Al-Nassr at the Al-Shabab Club Stadium in Riyadh on December 11, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Ronaldo dribbles the ball in the match against Al Shabab during the King Cup quarterfinal.AFP/Getty Images

According to ESPN, the last time that Ronaldo scored 50 goals in a calendar year was in 2017 while he was playing for Real Madrid.

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Last week, the 38-year-old forward played the 1,200th game of his professional career, scoring a league-leading 16th goal in the Saudi Pro League this season.

It was also announced on Monday that Ronaldo is likely to face long-time rival Lionel Messi once more when the Argentine’s Inter Miami side tours Saudi Arabia next year.

Inter Miami and Al Nassr will face each other in Riyadh on February 1, which will potentially be the 36th time that Messi and Ronaldo have faced each other throughout their careers. Prior to that, the MLS side will play against Al-Hilal.

“This is another major opportunity to create lasting relationships with passionate fans,” said Xavier Asensi, Inter Miami’s Chief Business Officer.

“We are excited to connect with new supporters in Saudi Arabia, and also hope people all over the world will be tuning in to see a pair of dream matches like these.”

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