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Official: Karim Benzema completes Al Ittihad move after Real Madrid exit

Karim Benzema
© Nathan Congleton

The Ballon d’Or holder has signed for the Saudi Arabian champions after ending a 14-year spell at Real Madrid.

Al Ittihad announced on Tuesday that Karim Benzema has signed with the club, making him the latest star to join the Saudi Pro League.

After 14 years at the Bernabeu, Benzema left Real Madrid following the 2022/23 season, scoring his final goal for the club in Sunday’s season-ending 1-1 draw against Athletic Club. Although the 35-year-old was expected to sign for another year with Madrid, he instead joined former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League. His two-year contract with Al Ittihad is reportedly worth €400 million.

“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 statement.

“I have been fortunate to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I can in Spain and Europe. It now feels [like] 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.”

‘Benzema is box office and very much at the top of his powers’

Al Ittihad president Anmar Bin Abdullah Alhailae added: “To sign the current Ballon d’Or holder from Real Madrid is another historic milestone for this special club. Karim is [a] 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.”

Benzema, winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or, scored 354 goals for Real Madrid in 648 matches. During his time in Spain, he earned a record 25 trophies, including 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 season that forced him to withdraw from France’s World Cup squad, Benzema still managed to score 31 goals and provide six assists in 43 games last season.