Karim Benzema scored on his final Real Madrid appearance as they drew 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao.
The veteran forward, 35, announced his plans to leave the club on a free transfer ahead of the match against Athletic Bilbao. The stat has spent 14 years with the Spanish giants. Benzema joined Los Blancos from Lyon back in 2009 and has helped them win four La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues.
He leaves the club having scored a total of 354 goals across all competitions – a tally only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo. And some supporters even claimed Benzema leaves the club as more of a legend than Ronaldo.
One fan tweeted: “Benzema is a bigger legend at Madrid than Ronaldo. Most decorated Madrid player. Scored hat trick in el clasico”. Another added: “Thank you for all the memories Will love you forever #Benzema”.
A third wrote: “Nothing left to Achieve, Nothing left to Prove. Thank you for everything.” While a fourth added: “Thank you king Karim. This goodbye is not an easy one to accept.”
Benzema’s farewell was an emotional one, as he was given a huge standing ovation from those inside the Bernabeu when he was replaced by Luka Modric and then repeatedly thrown up in the air by his teammates after the final whistle.
Marco Asensio, who is also departing on a free transfer this summer, was given a similar ovation when he was replaced in stoppage time, while Eden Hazard was an unused substitute. And Real boss Carlo Ancelotti admitted he was surprised by Benzema’s decision to leave, having said just a day before the announcement of his departure that he expected the forward to stay.
“I don’t think it’s been a cold goodbye, the club will prepare an event in the coming days — you have to take into account Karim’s character, quite coy,” Ancelotti said. “I spoke with him this morning and he told me he was going. He’s taken the decision and I told him I respect it completely.”
“I have coached one of the best in the world, not a forward, a complete footballer. A very friendly, humble, serious person. We can’t be happy he is going, but we have to respect his decision. What he has done at this club is legendary and unforgettable.”
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also hailed him as a “legend”, telling Movistar: “It’s been a pleasure for me to play with [Benzema]. He’s an excellent player, a legend. It’s a shame he’s going but he’s earned the right to choose his future.”
Benzema is now expected to make a hugely lucrative move Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad, who have reportedly offered him a bumper contract worth in excess of £1m-a-week.