Karim Benzema officially leaves Real Madrid as club legend, Saudi Arabia likely

Karim Benzema has spent the last 14 seasons at Real Madrid.  (Photo by Ruben de la Fuente Perez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Karim Benzema has spent the last 14 seasons at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ruben de la Fuente Perez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Karim Benzema is officially leaving Real Madrid and will soon sign with Saudi club Al Ittihad, according to widely reported reports this week.

Real Madrid bid farewell to Benzema, their captain, with an official statement on Sunday morning. He said the two parties “have agreed to put an end to his brilliant and unforgettable experience as a player at our club”.

That spell featured 353 goals, the second-most in Real Madrid history, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, from whose shadow Benzema emerged in 2018 and beyond to become a belated superstar.

Benzema joined Madrid in 2009, aged 21, and sometimes struggled to score goals consistently. But the club and the player backed each other up and elevated Benzema to the central role after Ronaldo’s departure. Benzema had already contributed to titles as an extra player; in his thirties, he became the protagonist of more.

He leaves having won four La Liga crowns and five Champions Leagues. Secondary competitions included, he won 25 trophies in all, the most of any player in Real Madrid history. In 14 seasons, he made 647 appearances (the fifth most in club history) and provided more assists than any Real player on record.

He also won a triumphant and deserved Ballon d’Or in 2022, becoming the first winner of the award aged 34.

And now, as aging Ballon d’Or winners apparently do these days, he’s off to Saudi Arabia. The announcement is expected this week, after Benzema played his last game for Real on Sunday and waved a final goodbye at an event on Tuesday. (Real Madrid, in its Sunday statement, called the event “an institutional act of homage and farewell.”)

According reports earlier this week, Benzema accepted a nine-figure offer from Saudi Arabia. ESPN announced that it was a contract of 400 million euros (about 430 million dollars) over two years. He will become the second Ballon d’Or winner to leave Europe for Saudi Arabia after Ronaldo signed a nine-figure contract with Al Nassr in December.

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, who will leave Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain after this season, could also sign with Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal. Messi’s decision is expected this week.

The Saudi league has long been seen as an afterthought by Europe’s footballing elite, but the country’s leaders, backed by their unlimited public investment fund, have hatched a plan to bring some of the sport’s biggest names into the game. the Gulf Kingdom. Benzema is the latest and certainly won’t be the last.

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