Just arrived, already adulated. Karim Benzema settled in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) earlier this week and here he is in uniform, presented with great pomp at the King Abadallah Stadium, the den of his club Al-Ittihad.
Because failing to attract Lionel Messi, who chose the United States and Inter Miami, Saudi Arabia has reserved a gala welcome to Karim Benzema, this Thursday in front of 60,000 fans. Yellow and black striped jersey of his new team on the back, the former Real Madrid star striker appeared to the cheers of the public before joining a podium in the center of the field.
The 2022 Ballon d'Or, who has committed for three years with the Saudi club and an amount that has not been revealed, then addressed the fans in English to thank them, promising to lead the club "to the highest level". Before slipping an "Assalam o aleikum!" (hello). The 35-year-old then brandished his Ballon d'Or, before taking a lap of honour by sending autographed balloons to the public.
After 14 years in Madrid, where he won five Champions Leagues, the French international (97 caps, 37 goals), had chosen 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 evolves, him, at Al-Nassr, club of Ryad.
In the stands of the stadium, filled in particular by families, we had waited in music to discover the star. Welcome messages, sometimes in French, were unfurled as well as shirts flocked Benzema, Real and Al-Ittihad. We could also see the jersey of the Frenchman attached to that of his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
Music at full volume, light shows, pyrotechnic show, clip to the glory of the attacker and face of the player projected in 3D mapping in the sky, preceded the arrival of the star on the lawn where a giant KB9 had been drawn with lights.
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 improving, "had explained earlier in French, the center forward during his press conference presentation.
I like the ambition and the character of the fans. That's why I chose this club. The fans and the club from Saudi Arabia are warm. I've already had the chance to play matches here (...) I have seen, in recent days, a lot of madness. It touched me a lot. I hope to give them back on the ground this heat, "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 a pitch. To get the club where it needs to be, which is at the top," said the former Real star striker.