- Benzema leaving Real after 14 years
- Set to join Al-Ittihad on a free transfer
- Claims he always intended to retire in Madrid
WHAT HAPPENED? Real confirmed that Benzema will leave the club over the weekend, and the Frenchman subsequently played his final game against Athletic Club on Sunday, signing off with a goal from the penalty spot. The 35-year-old is now set to take on a new challenge in the Middle East after 14 trophy-laden years at the Bernabeu, and he said his last goodbyes in front of the media on Tuesday morning.
WHAT THEY SAID: "It's a bit of a sad day because I'm leaving my club," Benzema told a press conference. "I signed for Madrid and I wanted to retire here, but it didn't happen that way. I will always be a Madrid fan. Thanks also to the fans who always gave me this strength. Thank you all, really."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: It has been reported that Benzema has already signed a lucrative three-year deal with Al-Ittihad, who won the 2022-23 Saudi Pro League title. They managed to finish top ahead of Al-Nassr, who currently have Benzema's former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo on their books.
AND WHAT'S MORE: Benzema also paid tribute to Florentino Perez after confirming his exit, thanking the Real president for bringing him to the club from Lyon way back in 2009. "Florentino, when I saw you, I thought to myself that he was the man who brought Ronaldo and [Zinedine] Zidane. It's incredible," he said. "The most important thing for me is that everything I've won, I savoured it like a child. As I said during my presentation 'one, two and three, hala Madrid!'"
IN THREE PHOTOS:Getty
WHAT'S NEXT FOR BENZEMA? The former France international was reportedly offered a one-year extension at Real, but he decided against staying put for another season. Benzema will now join Al-Ittihad as a free agent, with a glitzy presentation ceremony likely to be on the cards in the same style as the one Al-Nassr put on for Ronaldo in January.