Karim Benzema Explains Why He Left Real Madrid For Al Ittihad

Karim Benzema has stated that the possibility to live in a Muslim country was a major factor in his decision to relocate to Saudi Arabia.

The 35-year-old’s decision to leave Real Madrid at the end of his contract shocked the footballing world, with many expecting the Frenchman to extend his stay at the Santiago Bernabeu by at least another 12 months.

But after meeting with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Benzema opted to take up the offer of moving to Saudi Arabia, penning a three-year deal with champions Al Ittihad on Tuesday.

Benzema’s arrival could spark a mass exodus from Europe’s top five leagues to Saudi Arabia, as a number of other high-profile players have also received lucrative offers. N’Golo Kante and Wilfried Zaha are close to joining Al Ittihad and Al Nassr respectively, while 90min understands Neymar’s representatives have held talks over a move to the Middle East.

Al Ittihad unveiled Benzema as their marquee new arrival on Thursday, where the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner admitted his religion had played a role in deciding his future.

“Well, because I’m muslim and this is a muslim country, and I have always wanted to live here,” Benzema told the club’s media channels.

“I’m so ready to show my talent in this new challenge, there are so many big names play here in this league – Cristiano Ronaldo and now me,” he continued.

“So, it’s very important to show that Saudi football can have a global impact, because it’s not only about playing well here, I should bring the success I managed to achieve in Europe and play the same way I used to do with Real Madrid.

“[Ronaldo] is my friend and he is here. It’s amazing to see him here in Saudi Arabia, also he represents the new era of football in this country and the progress that’s happening here, which is important on the international level.”

Benzema previously indicated he planned on retiring at Real Madrid, but the unexpected opportunity to move to Saudi Arabia, where he will become one of the highest-paid players in world football, changed his plans after consulting with his family.

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