Failing to attract Lionel Messi, who chose the United States and Inter Miami, Saudi Arabia reserved a gala reception for Karim Benzema, finally presented Thursday in front of 60,000 supporters of Al-Ittihad, his new club in Jeddah (West).
The yellow and black striped jersey of his new team on the back, the former attached star of Real Madrid made his appearance to the cheers of the public before reaching a podium in the center of the field.
The Ballon d’Or 2022, who has signed up for 3 years with the Saudi club and an amount that has not been revealed, then translated into English to the supporters to thank them, promising to drive the club “at the highest skin level”. Before slipping in an “Assalam o aleikum!” » (Good morning).
The 35-year-old then held up his Ballon d’Or, before taking a lap of honor when he saw autographed balloons in the public.
After 14 years in Madrid, where he notably won five Champions Leagues, the French international (97 caps, 37 goals), chose Tuesday to join the Saudi club Al-Ittihad. A few months after the arrival in the kingdom of his former teammate at Real, Cristiano Ronaldo, who is playing at Al-Nassr, a Ryad club.
In the stands of the stadium, answered in particular by families, we had waited in music to discover the star. Welcome messages, sometimes in English, were deployed as were flocked Benzema jerseys, that of Real and that of Al-Ittihad. We could also see the Frenchman’s jersey attached to that of his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
Music at full volume, light effects, pyrotechnic show, clip to the glory of the attacker and the face of the player projected in 3D mapping in the sky, premeditated the arrival of the star on the lawn where a giant KB9 had been drawn with lights.
“Raise the club to the top”
“Why did I choose Al-Ittihad? It’s a club with a lot of values. It’s a club that has just won (the national title, editor’s note), which is still progressing, « had explained earlier in French, the center forward during his presentation press conference.
“I like the ambition and character of the fans. That’s why I chose this club. The Saudi Arabian fans and club are warm. I have already had the chance to play matches here (…) I have seen, in recent days, a lot of madness. It really touched me. I hope to give them back this warmth on the pitch.”he added in front of an audience of several dozen journalists.
“I won a lot of things in Europe. I signed here with a lot of ambition, to bring my experience, hoping to win a lot of titles, because I’m hungry. I still want to play and show what I can do on the pitch. To set up the club where it should be, that is to say at the very top », also said the former attached star of Real.
The second top scorer in the history of Real Madrid, with 354 goals, behind CR7 (450 goals) could be joined by his compatriot N’Golo Kanté. The Saudi club « Study of the results of the medical examination » you world champion 2018, said an internal source on Thursday, referring to the “long history of injuries” your midfield. “We want to be careful before signing a huge contract. »