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Karim Benzema signs for Saudi side Al-Ittihad on a three-year deal after Real Madrid exit confirmed

WHAT HAPPENED? The mercurial forward called time on his 14-year stint in the Spanish capital when Real announced his one-year extension clause in his contract would not be triggered. Now a free agent, the Frenchman has been able to finalise terms with Al-Ittihad. AFP reports that Benzema has officially signed a three-year deal with the Saudi club that will keep him on their books until 2026.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Saudi champions have moved quickly to land the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner as the Gulf state's ambitious transfer plans get underway. Alongside Benzema, Al-Hilal are reportedly close to a world-record deal to land Lionel Messi, who is also available on a free, while up to seven other world superstars are being targeted by various other clubs.

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AND WHAT'S MORE: The move will see Benzema link back up with former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit on opposing teams battling it out for the Saudi Pro League crown. Al-Ittihad pipped Ronaldo's Al-Nassr to the title by three points late last month, leaving the Portuguese trophyless in his first season with the club.


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WHAT NEXT FOR BENZEMA? The Frenchman was on target as he signed off his career in Madrid in style, having racked up an impressive 23 goals in 33 games across an injury-hit season. At 35 years old, he leaves Real having won almost every available trophy, and will move to the Middle East as he enters the twilight stages of his career.