'It was a surprise' - Karim Benzema didn't reveal decision to leave Real Madrid until the morning of Athletic Club clash, reveals Carlo Ancelotti

  • Real confirmed Benzema departure on Sunday
  • He scored on farewell appearance
  • Ancelotti admits his decision came as a shock

WHAT HAPPENED? Real Madrid confirmed that Karim Benzema will leave the club in an official statement on Sunday, shortly before their final La Liga game of the season against Athletic Club. The Frenchman scored a penalty to secure a 1-1 draw for Los Blancos, which ensured they finished second in the table ahead of arch-rivals Atletico Madrid. The Santiago Bernabeu crowd gave Benzema a standing ovation when he was subbed late on and he said his final goodbyes on the pitch after the match. Ancelotti is sad to see the 35-year-old go, especially after only learning of his decision on the morning of the game.

WHAT THEY SAID: "I have trained one of the best in the world. Not only as a forward, as a complete footballer. He is a great person, kind, humble, serious," the Real boss told reporters. "We cannot be happy, but we must respect him. He earned the right to decide. He has done legendary, unforgettable things. It was a surprise, but it is part of a transition process. We have time to think about what we will do. I spoke to him this morning and he told me he was leaving. I showed him all my respect for everything he has done."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Real will now work on signing a replacement for Benzema, who is reportedly set to complete a big-money switch to Saudi Arabia. Tottenham's Harry Kane and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen are among those being linked with a switch to the Bernabeu, with Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard following Benzema through the exits to leave Ancelotti short on options in the final third.

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"We want to sign a striker who scores goals, gets involved in play and adapts to our game," the Italian said when quizzed on his transfer plans. "But games are not only won with forwards. We have two youngsters with a lot of prominence in Vinicius [Junior] and Rodrygo."


Benzema Bernabéu Real MadridGetty Images

Benzema Ancelotti 16:9Getty

WHAT NEXT? Benzema leaves Real as a club legend after scoring 354 goals in 648 appearances across his 14-year stay in the Spanish capital. He became a five-time Champions League winner at the Bernabeu and won his first Ballon d'Or after firing Real to a league and European double in 2021-22. Plugging the gap left by his departure will be a priority for Ancelotti as they bid to bounce back from a disappointing season that saw them finish way behind Barcelona in the Liga title race.