RIYADH: Real Madrid’s Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema has signed for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad for three years starting next season, a source in the Jeddah-based club told on Tuesday.
“Benzema has signed a contract for his transfer to Al-Ittihad for a three-year period starting next season,” the Saudi club source said.
Real announced on Sunday that the 35-year-old was leaving the club after 14 seasons, the day after coach Carlo Ancelotti had said there was “no doubt” Benzema’s future lay in the Spanish capital.
If the move is confirmed, Benzema will join his former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo in the Gulf kingdom after the five-time world player of the year moved to Al Nassr from Manchester United following last year’s World Cup.
Lionel Messi, who is leaving Paris St-Germain after two seasons, has also been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia.
Senior officials from another Saudi Arabian club, Al Hilal, have flown to France to try and seal a deal for Messi after the 35-year-old Argentinian played his last game for PSG at the weekend, two sources with knowledge of the matter told AFP on Sunday.
The Saudi delegation plans to meet Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, with the aiming of completing the signing as soon as possible.
Benzema made 648 appearances for Madrid and is second on Real’s all-time goalscoring list with 354 — only Ronaldo has more.
He has lifted five Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles and three Copas del Rey with Real.
But after a stellar 2021-22 season when he led Real to Champions League glory and was rewarded with the Ballon d’Or, he was troubled by injuries in the just-completed season and had to miss France’s World Cup campaign in Qatar last year with a thigh problem.
Benzema held a goodbye ceremony at Real’s training ground on Tuesday.
“It hurts me, because I had a dream in my head — to sign for Madrid, and finish at Madrid,” he told an audience of his team-mates and club officials.
“But sometimes life gives you other opportunities,” he added.
Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2023