The Karim Benzema transfer saga has come to a brief but lucrative end.
Just days after disavowing reports that he was set to leave Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia, the French forward has officially joined Saudi Pro League champion Al-Ittihad in a blockbuster deal.
According to ESPN, the 35-year-old was offered a two-year, €400 million ($427.8 million) to rebuff a chance at another year with Real Madrid.
“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 a club statement.
“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.”
W E L C O M E !— Ittihad Club (@ittihad_en) June 6, 2023
B E N Z E M A 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/Oc9IK4OoDj
With Cristiano Ronaldo already playing in the Saudi Pro League with Al-Nassr and with Lionel Messi and N’Golo Kante reportedly entertaining offers from the league, the arrival of the reigning Ballon d’Or winner represents a paradigm shift in the perception of the country’s growing soccer presence.
In 14 seasons with Real Madrid, Benzema won four La Liga trophies, five Champions League titles and scored more than 350 goals.