Former Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has signed a deal to join Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad football club on a three-year deal, according to the club. The announcement on Tuesday (Jun 6) comes a day after the Gulf kingdom revealed plans to privatise its biggest football clubs in a bid to increase revenue and attract big-name players. Without disclosing details of the deal or Benzema’s salary, the club said in a statement that Benzema had undergone a medical examination and completed the signing in Madrid on Monday.
Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema has agreed terms on a three-year deal with Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad after leaving Real Madrid. French striker Benzema, 35, won 25 trophies – including five Champions Leagues and four La Ligas – in 14 years with Madrid but they agreed to let him leave his contract a year early.
He scored 354 goals for Real, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, who hit 450 Real goals, plays for another Saudi club, Al-Nassr.
"It's a good league and there are many good players," said Benzema. "Cristiano Ronaldo is already there, a friend which shows Saudi Arabia is starting to further progress its level. I am here to win, like I did in Europe.
"I have been fortunate to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I can in Spain and Europe. It now feels the time is right for a new challenge and project."
Al-Ittihad are managed by former Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
Benzema played 648 times for Real after his 2009 move from Lyon and scored with his last touch for the club, netting a penalty in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao before being replaced.
On Monday it was announced Al-Ittihad were one of four leading Saudi Arabian clubs to be taken over by the country's Public Investment Fund, which also owns Newcastle United.
Ronaldo's Al-Nassr are another, and so are Al-Hilal, who have been strongly linked to Paris Saint-Germain's Lionel Messi this summer.