Karim Benzema joins Al Ittihad to earn almost £200m per season after Real Madrid exit
Karim Benzema has wasted no time in finding a new club following his departure from Real Madrid, having penned a two-year contract with Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad
Karim Benzema has joined Saudi side Al-Ittihad after parting ways with Real Madrid.
The Frenchman bid an emotional farewell to the 13-time European champions after 14 years in the Spanish capital and has wasted little time in finding a new club.
He has followed in the footsteps of former Bernabeu teammate Cristiano Ronaldo by heading for the money-soaked Saudi Pro League. His new team are managed by former Wolves and Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
The 35-year-old has signed a two-year deal with Al-Ittihad, who will pay him almost £200m per season, around the same as Ronaldo. Al-Ittihad are the reigning Saudi champions after beating Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr to the title in the season just completed.
Benzema scored 354 goals in 648 games for Real and won a club-record 25 trophies. He opted not to take up the option of a contract extension and has headed for the Middle East instead.
“I’ll never forget Real Madrid because it’s impossible,” he told a farewell press conference. “It’s difficult to talk. There are so many emotions. I wanted to thank Real Madrid and my team-mates. It’s been a good journey in my life.
“I was lucky enough to fulfil my childhood dream thanks to the president, who a long time ago, when I was just 21 years old, went to my house, with my parents.
“When I saw you I said, he’s the man who brought Zizou and Ronaldo and now he wants me in his team. Thank you very much for that.
“I’ll never forget Real Madrid because it is impossible. It’s the best club in the world and in history, that’s as good as it gets. It’s time for me to leave today and to have another story, but the most important thing for me is what I’ve won here.
“It’s a little bit of a sad day, because I’m leaving this club and that pains me. My dream was in my head, I signed for Madrid and I wanted to finish at Madrid, but life sometimes gives you another opportunity and I’ve taken it with all my family.”
Ronaldo, now 38, has talked up the Saudi Pro League and has encouraged players of his ilk to make the move. He has boldly claimed it could become one of the top five leagues in the world.
“The big players are all welcome,” he said recently. “If this happens, the league will improve. In my opinion, if the Saudi league continues its current trajectory for the next five years, it has the potential to become one of the top five leagues in the world.”