Jeddah, June 7 (BNA): The club announced today, Tuesday, that Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema has become the latest major player to head to Saudi Arabia after joining Al-Ittihad club as a free agent, after the French striker’s departure from Real Madrid. Madrid.
Reuters reports that Benzema, who ended 14 years with Real Madrid this week, is joining the Saudi champions on a three-year deal and will wear the number nine shirt.
Benzema said, “I am excited to experience a new football league in a different country. I have been fortunate to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I can in Spain and Europe.”
“Now I feel the time is right for a new challenge and project… I look forward to joining, and with, my new team-mates in helping to take this amazing club and the game in Saudi Arabia to new levels.”
Benzema follows his former Real teammate Cristiano Ronaldo to the Gulf country after the Portuguese striker signed a two-and-a-half-year contract that media valued at more than 200 million euros ($213.78 million) with Al-Nassr in December.
After joining Real in 2009 from Olympique Lyonnais, Benzema became the spearhead of the club’s attack after Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus in 2018, winning the Champions League five times and the La Liga title four times.
His best season with Real Madrid was in the 2021-22 season when he scored 44 goals in all competitions to lead the club to a record fourteenth European title in addition to the La Liga title.
Early in 2021, he earned a call-up from France coach Didier Deschamps to the national team for the first time in six years, after falling out of favor over his alleged involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal.
The 35-year-old won the Golden Ball award for the best men’s player in the world last year, and it seemed that he was ready to stay in the Spanish club for another year, after the 2022-23 season in which he suffered from injuries. He was absent from the France squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
However, an offer estimated by the media to be worth more than €100m from Saudi Arabia made him rethink his decision to stay in Spain for one final season, as the striker decided to scrap the one-year extension clause in his contract.
Last month, Al-Ittihad clinched the Saudi Professional League title for the first time since 2009.