Karim Benzema has signed for Al Ittihad, the club announced Tuesday, becoming the latest star to join the Saudi Pro League.
Benzema, 35, left Real Madrid following the 2022-23 season after 14 years at the Bernabeu. He scored his final goal for the club in their season-ending 1-1 draw against Athletic Club on Sunday.
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The former France striker was expected to sign for a further year with Madrid, but he has instead joined former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League. Sources told ESPN last Tuesday that Benzema was offered a two-year, €400 million contract by the Saudi champions.
“I am excited to experience a new football league in a different country. Al-Ittihad Club has an amazing history, incredibly passionate fans and big ambitions in football to be a force in Asia after winning the league,” Benzema said in the club’s announcement.
“I have been fortunate to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I can in Spain and Europe. It now feels the time is right for a new challenge and project. Every time I’ve visited Saudi Arabia I’ve always felt such warmth and love from the fans and people. I am looking forward to joining my new teammates and, together with them, help take this amazing club and the game in Saudi Arabia to new levels.”
Added Al Ittihad president Anmar Bin Abdullah Alhailae: “To sign the current Ballon d’Or holder from Real Madrid is another historic milestone for this special club. Karim is global football icon, he’s box office and very much at the top of his powers.
“He joins a club and hugely competitive league — in a country with big ambitions both on and off the pitch. We know all eyes will be on him and can’t wait to see him in the number 9 shirt of Al-Ittihad Club next season as we face an incredibly exciting challenge to defend our title, compete in Asia and play on the global state of the FIFA Club World Cup.”
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner scored 354 goals for Madrid across 648 matches while earning a record 25 trophies at Madrid, consisting of four LaLiga titles, five Champions Leagues, three Copas del Rey, four Spanish Supercopas, four UEFA Super Cups and five FIFA Club World Cups.
Despite an injury-hit campaign which saw him forcibly withdrawn from France’s World Cup squad, Benzema notched 31 goals in 43 games while also providing six assists last season.
Benzema was integral in Madrid’s 2021-22 campaign, scoring 27 times in LaLiga and 15 times in the Champions League as the club won both trophies.
The striker is Madrid’s second-highest all-time goalscorer behind Ronaldo. The club held an event at its training ground on Tuesday to pay tribute to the Frenchman.