At the end of last season, Karim Benzema made the shocking decision to leave Real Madrid at the end of his contract despite being offered a renewal.
He opted to end his 14-year spell at Los Blancos in order to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad, becoming one of the first players this summer to make the move to the Middle East.
Leaving European football’s elite when he was still at the top of the game could have been a risk for Benzema, but it’s one he feels has been vindicated.
Speaking to the Saudi Super League’s official media channels, the Frenchman opened up and shared the reasons behind his move to Al-Ittihad.
“When the football project started in Saudi Arabia, it looked big in all aspects. I wanted to be a part of it and help football move forward in this country,” Benzema initially said.
“There is a lot of passion here and I am happy with the level of play. I’m really surprised by the level in Saudi Arabia because in Europe we don’t see many football matches here. Now they do.”
Benzema also revealed that his religion has allowed him to adapt to Saudi Arabia very quickly.
“As a Muslim, when you are in Mecca you feel calm. It is an extraordinary place. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. They welcomed me with open arms and I felt loved immediately”.
The Frenchman also reflected on his departure from Real Madrid in the summer, and he felt he had achieved everything he set out to do after joining from Lyon in 2009, which made his decision to leave easier.
“I am very happy and proud with everything I have done and won with Real Madrid, but I think it was a good time for me to try something new in my life after everything I had already won in Madrid,” concluded the Frenchman. .
Real Madrid have progressed in Benzema’s absence, to great effect thanks to the influence of a Jude Bellingham. However, the 35-year-old remains a very important part of the club’s recent history.