Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema will leave the Spanish side this summer to join the Saudi Pro League, according to multiple reports.
ESPN reported on Thursday, citing anonymous sources, that the Frenchman will join Saudi Football League champion Al Ittihad when his contract expires this month. Earlier this week, the sports channel reported that Benzema was offered a two-year contract worth €400 million to move to Saudi Arabia in January, the same deal made to Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr in December after leaving Manchester United. It had also been reported that Benzema’s signing would help Saudi Arabia try to land the 2030 World Cup and the French striker could become an ambassador for the competition.
Foot Mercato reported Thursday that Benzema has told Real Madrid that he wants to leave.
The 35-year-old French striker has won 24 trophies — including five Champions Leagues — in 24 seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu. Benzema had become Real Madrid's second-highest all-time goal scorer, with more than 350 goals to his name. Only Ronaldo managed to get more goals at Madrid, scoring 450 goals in 438 matches.
Benzema’s best season for goals was 2021-22, when he struck the ball into the net 27 times in La Liga and scored 15 more in the Champions League, helping him win the Ballon d’Or in October 2022.
Benzema had been expected to extend his contract to stay at Madrid for one more season until June 2024 but is instead moving to Al Ittihad, which won the Super League this season. Ronaldo’s Al Nassr came in second place.
Benzema retired from international soccer in December after France lost the World Cup final to Argentina. He had been left out of the squad after failing to recover from an injury in time for the start of the championship.
Flush with oil revenue, Saudi Arabia is looking to continue to increase its presence in sports by hosting international games, signing high-profile players and taking stakes in soccer clubs. Other superstar footballers have been linked to the Saudi league.
Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has been linked for months to Al Hilal, which is currently third in the Super League. Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier confirmed Thursday that the Argentine forward will leave the French club at the end of the season.
However, there is also increasing talk that Messi may instead return to his former club FC Barcelona, where he won multiple trophies and four Champions League titles.