Karim Benzema claims he “really wanted to retire” at Madrid as he insists it really “hurts” to say goodbye.
The French superstar, Karim Benzema leaves Real Madrid to join Saudi Arabian Champions, Al-Ittihad on a three-year contract worth £258m this summer.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez hosted a farewell ceremony on Tuesday morning to honour the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner. It was during the event that Benzema said, “It really hurts. It’s not easy. I really wanted to retire here. But sometimes directions change. I’ll always be watching Madrid and I will always support Madrid-the best club in the world. Real Madrid will always be my family”.
The Frenchman closed off his farewell speech by saying: ‘As I said the first day, 1, 2, 3… Hala Madrid!’
Perez added: ‘Dear Karim, 14 years ago you arrived at Real Madrid and you have become one of the best players of all time. You are one of the symbols of this club, one of our greatest legends”.
‘You have managed to move all of us who love football. You are a different footballer and it is true that some took time to understand you.
‘Today is a very difficult day for me. Some took a while to understand you, but you were always a different player. Benzema leaves Real Madrid with the love of the whole world. You are one of the chosen ones.’
Benzema’s new club, Al-Ittihad is managed by the former Wolves and Tottenham coach, Nuno Espirito Santo. The side finished five-points clear of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr in the Saudi race this season.
His lucrative move comes amid a drive by the Saudi authorities to bring in high-calibre players who have regularly played in Champions League or World Cup finals.
Ronaldo, 38, signed for Al-Nassr in December after his acrimonious exit from Manchester United and has scored 14 goals in 19 outings so far in Saudi football.
Meanwhile, Al-Hilal wants to sign the Argentina World Cup winner Lionel Messi. This was after the confirmed his exit from Paris Saint-Germain. The side is therefore are believed to be preparing a lucrative deal worth £345m per season.
Benzema’s yearly Saudi deal is worth £86m (€100m) tax free, with add-ons included for promoting the country’s 2030 World Cup bid.
Having chalked up 648 appearances for Real Madrid, Benzema’s legacy at the Bernabeu will long be considered among the very best, with the 35-year-old striker scoring over 350 goals during his 14-year spell.