Karim Benzema has signed a three-year deal with Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad, with fellow French star N’Golo Kante poised to join him.
It has been reported that Benzema’s contract with Al-Ittihad is worth more than €100m (£86m) per season, with Chelsea midfielder Kante set to pocket a similar amount when he pens a two-year deal in the Arabian Peninsula.
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“It’s a good league and there are many good players,” said Benzema. “Cristiano Ronaldo is already there, a friend which shows Saudi Arabia is starting to further progress its level. I am here to win, like I did in Europe.
“I have been fortunate to achieve amazing things in my career and achieve everything I can in Spain and Europe. It now feels the time is right for a new challenge and project.”
Benzema, who is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, won 25 major trophies in his 14 years at Real Madrid.
Real head coach Carlo Ancelotti said Benzema’s decision to leave was a “massive surprise”.
Al-Ittihad pipped Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr to the Saudi Pro League title by five points last month.
“Yes it was a surprise, it was a massive surprise for everyone, but we had to understand that he thought about it twice and this is part of a process that started at this club some years ago, a transition that will continue next season,” Ancelotti said.
“So, we have enough time to think about what we need to do (to replace Benzema) and the squad will be very competitive next season, I can assure you of that.”
Meanwhile, Kante will join Benzema at Saudi champions Al-Ittihad after an injury-hit season.
The 32-year-old played just nine times for Chelsea this season after picking up a hamstring injury in October, while his season was prematurely ended by a groin problem last month.
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