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Benzema reveals why he left Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia

Karim Benzema, the former Real Madrid star, has opened up about his decision to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad in a stunning move that shocked the football world. The French striker said he was attracted by the “huge project” and the fact that Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country.

A lucrative deal

Benzema signed a two-year contract with Al-Ittihad in June 2023, after his contract with Real Madrid expired. He reportedly earned more than 100 million euros ($106 million) from the deal, making him one of the highest-paid players in the world. He joined other big names such as N’Golo Kante, Fabinho and Jota, who also moved to the Saudi Pro League in a bid to boost its profile and competitiveness.

Benzema had a glittering 14-year career with Real Madrid, where he won 19 trophies, including four Champions League titles and three La Liga titles. He scored 281 goals in 559 appearances for the Spanish giants, becoming their fifth all-time top scorer. He also won four French Player of the Year awards and was part of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning squad.

A huge project

Benzema said he was impressed by the vision and ambition of Al-Ittihad, who are the reigning champions of the Saudi Pro League. He said he wanted to be part of the “huge project” and help develop the game in Saudi Arabia.

Benzema reveals why he left Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia

“When the football project started here, it seemed like a huge project in all respects, and I wanted to be a part of it and help advance the game in Saudi Arabia, and this is one of the reasons that made me come here,” Benzema said in an interview with the Saudi Pro League, posted on messaging platform X.

He also praised the passion and history of Al-Ittihad, who have won nine league titles and three Asian Champions League titles. He said he was happy with the level of the game in Saudi Arabia and surprised by the attention it received in Europe.

“There is a lot of passion and football history here and I am happy with the level of the game. I am really surprised by the level in Saudi Arabia because in Europe we don’t watch a lot of football matches here,” he said. “But now there are lots of people (in Europe) who are watching the Saudi league after many big names were brought in.”

A Muslim country

Benzema also said he felt welcomed and loved in Saudi Arabia, which is a Muslim country. He said he felt at peace when he visited Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.

“Also, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and they welcomed me with open hands, and I felt loved immediately. As a Muslim when you are in Mecca you feel at peace … it is an exceptional place,” he said.

Benzema has scored three goals in seven league matches this season and provided two assists. He said he hopes to win more trophies with Al-Ittihad and make history with them.

“I came here to win titles and make history with this club. I have a lot of motivation and ambition to achieve great things here,” he said.

Al-Ittihad are currently fourth in the league table with 19 points, four behind leaders Al-Hilal. They will face Al-Shabab on Friday in their next match.

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