Benzema, who this week ended a 14-year career at Real Madrid that earned him many trophies, is moving to the Saudi Arabian champions’ team on a three-year deal and will wear the No. 9 jersey.
I am very excited to be introduced to a new soccer league in another country. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I could in Spain and Europe, Benzema said.
Now I feel it’s time for a new challenge and project… I’m looking forward to joining my new teammates and helping take this amazing club and game in Saudi Arabia to the next level together.
Benzema followed his former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo to the Persian Gulf country after the Portuguese striker signed a 2-1/2 year contract with Al Nasr in December, valued by the media at more than €200 million ($213.78 million).
Having moved to Real Madrid from Olympique Lyonnais in 2009, Benzema became the club’s attacking leader after Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018, winning the Champions League five times and La Liga four times.
He had his best season with Real Madrid in the 2021-22 campaign, when he scored 44 goals in all competitions and led the club to a record 14th European title as well as the La Liga crown.
In early 2021, he earned his first national team call-up in six years from France manager Didier Deschamps after falling out of favor due to his alleged involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal.
The 35-year-old footballer won the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world for men last year and looks set to remain at the Spanish club for another year after a 2022-23 season in which he struggled with injuries and did not make the French national team for the World Cup in Qatar.
However, an offer from Saudi Arabia, valued by the media at more than 100 million euros, made him reconsider his decision to stay in Spain for the final season, and the striker decided to cancel his one-year contract extension clause.
Last month, Al-Ittihad won the Saudi Professional League title for the first time since 2009.
HUGE STEP FOR SAUDIAN FUTURE
Last week, Portuguese striker Ronaldo said he hoped other famous players would follow him into the league.
147251Benzema’s arrival is the most significant transfer in the club’s history to date, Al Ittihad said in a statement.
It also marks anotherHuge step on the Saudi Professional League’s path to becoming one of the top soccer destinations for the world’s best, after its biggest season to date.
In recent weeks, several high-profile players have been linked to a move to Saudi Arabia. Last month, a source close to Argentina captain Lionel Messi – Ronaldo’s rival for the title of best player of his generation – told Reuters that he had received a formal offer to move to Al-Hilal next season.
Al-Ittihad club president Anmar Alhailaye called the signing of Benzema a great achievement for the club, saying: Karim is an icon of world soccer, he is a cash player and is at the top of his game.
He joins a club and a league with tremendous competition – in a country with great ambition both on and off the field.