French star Karim Benzema – newly joined Ittihad Jeddah – has revealed the reasons for his choice to live in Saudi Arabia in the coming period, despite Real Madrid's attempt to renew his contract for an additional season.
Benzema left Real Madrid at the end of the 2022-2023 season, and then Ittihad Jeddah announced his inclusion in their ranks on June 6, 2023 on a contract that extends until the summer of 2026.
Benzema said in his first interview published by the official account of Al-Ittihad: "I chose Saudi Arabia because I am a Muslim and it is a Muslim country, I have always wanted to live here."
🎙️ The full interview with our new star Karim Benzema is now available! Watch the full interview and learn about his ambitions and goals with Al Nasr in the coming season. 🤩⚽️ #Benzema2Ittihad #HereToInspireKSA pic.twitter.com/hABZbXbuEG
— Al Ittihad (@ittihad) June 8, 2023
On the differences between Europe and Saudi Arabia, the Frenchman said, "I visited Saudi Arabia in the past and I have a great feeling about that visit, the most important thing for me is that it is a Muslim country, loved and beautiful, it is the place where I want to be."
"It's important to be in a Muslim country where I feel loved by people and give me the opportunity to have a new experience," he said.
"Mecca will be nearby, and as a believer it is very important to me, it is a place where I feel at my best."
The French star, who won the Ballon d'Or award for the best player in the world in 2022, admitted his desire to learn Arabic, and said, "I want to speak Arabic fluently."
He revealed the reason for choosing to play for Ittihad Jeddah, he said, "I am happy to join this legendary club, and certainly it is a new challenge and a new life and I am excited to start training, I chose the Union because it is one of the best clubs in Saudi Arabia, and has a passionate fan base and has many titles and belongs to the top clubs."
Do the quality and show me from the Dallah
the blond coffee heals the head ☕️ cup #Benzema2Ittihad#here2inspireKSA pic.twitter.com/gJAZvNGGVP
— Al Ittihad (@ittihad) June 7, 2023
"What I will add to my new team is the result of my football experience, and most importantly the possibility of winning titles, I love that and I want to contribute to the development and progress of the club to a higher position than it is now."
Speaking backstage to his family about the Saudi offer, Benzema said: "They were very happy, so they will be here with me, that's important and I know Saudi Arabia is the right place for us."
Benzema spoke about Cristiano Ronaldo, his former Real Madrid team-mate, and said: "He's here, he's my friend, it's great to see him in Saudi Arabia. It represents the country's direction to progress at the level of football, and this is important internationally."
"There are big names playing here. Cristiano is on one side, and I'm here today, so it's important to show that football in Saudi Arabia can have an impact internationally."
Benzema talked about his experience with Real Madrid, he said: "I played for Real and won many titles, and I am proud that I played for Madrid and ended my career there in this way."
Benzema played 14 seasons with Real Madrid, during which he won 25 titles, most notably the Champions League 5 times, and represented him in the Club World Cup, in addition to the Spanish league 4 times.