Veteran French striker Karim Benzema, former captain of Real Madrid, has signed a three-year contract to move to Saudi league champions Al Ittihad, a source at the Jeddah club told AFP on Tuesday.
Benzema, 35, the best player in the world for 2022, became the second major deal concluded by Saudi clubs since the beginning of this year, after signing Al-Nasr club Cristiano Ronaldo in a deal estimated at more than 440 million euros for two and a half years.
Saudi club Al Hilal is also currently in direct negotiations with Argentine world champion Lionel Messi.
The source close to the negotiations – who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media – said: "Benzema signed his transfer contracts to the Union for 3 years starting next season."
The source did not disclose the value of the deal, which Saudi state television described on Sunday as "record".
👏 Karim Benzema scores his last goal for the Royal and a standing ovation from the fans during his emotional exit #La Liga | #ريال_مدريد #LaLiga | #RealMadrid pic.twitter.com/QBK4jxHwGx
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) June 4, 2023
Spanish newspapers reported that Benzema had received an offer from Saudi Arabia for 200 million euros over two years.
The federation hopes Benzema, who won five Champions League titles with the Spanish club, will help him during his participation in the next Club World Cup in December in Saudi Arabia.
The signing of the former Real Madrid captain comes a day after the Saudi authorities announced the conversion of four Saudi clubs, including Al-Ittihad, into companies 4% of which are owned by the wealthy Saudi Public Investment Fund.
The Saudi fund is one of the largest sovereign funds in the world, with assets exceeding $ 620 billion, and it stands behind Saudi Arabia's huge investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars in sports, from the acquisition of Ronaldo, the Formula 1 race in Jeddah, football matches for the most prestigious European clubs and world championships in golf and boxing.
Benzema is one of more than 10 players that Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is targeting to launch a "competitive league" from next year, a source told AFP on Monday.
The source said Saudi authorities were "in contact with more than 10 players — many of them players who won the World Cup or the (European) Champions League — to join the Saudi league next season."
The Saudi league is not universally known, but it is competitive and has a large following locally, in a country where young people under 30 make up 51 percent of its total population of 32.2 million.
Karim Benzema 🤝 Florentino Perez #GraciasKarim pic.twitter.com/JJrILVRqDp
— Real Madrid (@realmadridarab) June 4, 2023
Video confirming the deal
A video clip went viral on social media platforms, including scenes from Spain following a meeting between Benzema and Saudi Al Ittihad president Anmar Al-Haili and his deputy on Monday, just one day after Benzema participated in his last match with Real Madrid.
🤍 🆕Diary farewell to Benzema, Asensio, Hazard and Mariano
📺 Watch the video here 👇 #GraciasKarim | #GraciasAsensio | #GraciasHazard | #GraciasMariano
— Real Madrid (@realmadridarab) June 5, 2023
And published the program "El Shringito" Spanish sports famous – through his official account on Twitter – the clip circulating in which appeared Haili and his deputy Ahmed Kaaki come out respectively from a restaurant in the Spanish capital Madrid, and then came out behind them Benzema and his brother.
The program pointed out that this shot came after a meeting between Benzema and officials of the Federation, which seeks to sign the French star, after announcing his departure officially from Real Madrid after the end of his contract.
!!️BENZEMA, reunido con el PRESIDENTE y el vicepresidente del AL-ITTIHAD.
🚨Imagen EXCLUSIVA @elchiringuitotv de @MarcosdVicente 🚨 #ChiringuitoBenzema pic.twitter.com/BBrJX7x61V
— El Chiringuito TV (@elchiringuitotv) June 6, 2023
The SAFF audience reacted to the video, as most of them saw that this clip proves that the deal was made, and Benzema will be a player for their team, and others considered that the features of their faces the moment they leave the place suggest an agreement to move to Saudi Arabia.
Romano: Benzema signed for Ittihad Jeddah
In the same context, the expert in the transfer market Italian players Fabrizio Romano confirmed on Monday that Benzema signed the documents of his transfer to Ittihad Jeddah, in a contract that will extend two years until 2025 with an option that includes an additional year, with a salary of up to 200 million euros per year.
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A post shared by Fabrizio Romano (@fabriziorom)
Benzema's name has been linked with Al Ittihad since last week, as many press reports came out that indicated a huge offer that the Frenchman received from the Saudi team, and accordingly told Real Madrid management of his desire to leave, which he did.
Karim Benzema with Anmar Al Haili and Ahmed Kaaki in Spain. pic.twitter.com/LjAsKRaX3z
— Nawaf Al Asi 🇸🇦 (@football_ll55) June 6, 2023
Anmar Al-Haili's smile is a second story, a league and a cup, and #بنزيما believe its end is Misk 👏 https://t.co/JSG8rXoTWB
— Abdulrahman Al Amer Abdulrhman Alamer (@A_al3mer) June 6, 2023
🖤💛👍🏻 #الاتحاد Benzema completed the government in the stronghold of the Tigers https://t.co/IlllGTdUZp pic.twitter.com/Fp5uGG4VaQ
— Mufarreh Al-Shehri (@Mufar7_SH) June 6, 2023
I swear that I am still not understanding imagine that you travel to Madrid and negotiate with a legend from Real Madrid and choose
#الاتحاد any greatness that you have reached Dean
thank God first and last 💛🖤 https://t.co/bR554hIplC
— Omar|World🏆💛 League Champion (@Omar_7u) June 6, 2023
Welcome 💛💛 #BenzemaIsYellow https://t.co/EGZtCMDn4L
— Mohammed Al Shaibani (@CaMpell_23) June 6, 2023
A deal for history, the best suits the yellow 🤩🤩💛💛💛💛💛. https://t.co/toHo4cnm5m pic.twitter.com/ZJhPCBLvVu
— Raad Al-Otaibi (@4e0li) June 6, 2023