Karim Benzema agrees deal to join Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad from Real Madrid

Reigning Ballon d'Or winner's move to Saudi Pro League close to being confirmed, paving way for move big names to follow to the kingdom this summer

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema applauds fans after the match against Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu - his last game for the club. Reuters
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Karim Benzema is expected to be confirmed in the coming days as the latest star to move to Saudi Arabia’s top football league.

The French forward, whose departure from Real Madrid was announced by the Spanish club on Sunday, has accepted a lucrative offer to join Al Ittihad, the newly crowned Saudi Pro League champions.

Representatives from the kingdom were in Madrid from Sunday to move forward with the deal, which is understood to be a two-year contract with the option of another season.

Benzema, who on Sunday scored in his final appearance for Madrid – the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner converted a penalty in the 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao - will join in Saudi former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal captain signed for Al Nassr in December and narrowly missed out on the top-flight title in his first season, as Ittihad sealed the trophy with one round to spare.

Benzema looks poised to provide the spark for a summer of major investment in Saudi football, with a number of prominent footballers anticipated to land in the Pro League. Lionel Messi, whose departure from Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed on Saturday, had been anticipated to make the move to 18-time Saudi champions Al Hilal.

However, Barcelona are reportedly attempting to re-sign their former forward, who in December captained Argentina to World Cup success.

Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Angel Di Maria, N’Golo Kante, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are among other names linked with Saudi this summer.

Benzema moved to Madrid from Lyon in 2009 and went on to become the second-highest goalscorer in the club’s history, with 354 goals in 648 appearances. He is second only to Ronaldo.

During his 14 years at the Bernabeu, Benzema won 25 trophies, including four La Liga titles, five Champions League crowns, five Fifa Club World Cup trophies and the Copa del Rey three times.

Ittihad, meanwhile, last month sealed a ninth Saudi league title - and first in 14 years. The Jeddah club, managed by former Tottenham Hotspur head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, will compete in the 2023 Club World Cup in December. The tournament will be staged in the kingdom.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 12:17 PM