On ‘a sad day,’ Karim Benzema says goodbye to Real Madrid
MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema officially bid farewell to Real Madrid on Tuesday, saying he wanted to end his career with the club but life gave him another opportunity.
The French striker did not give any hints about his future at the time, but Saudi Arabia club Al-Ittihad later announced it had signed the 35-year-old player until 2026. Benzema is set to play against his former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Al-Nassr in January.
Benzema played the last of his 648 games with Madrid on Sunday, when he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on the final day of the Spanish league.
“It’s a bit of a sad day, because it hurts to be leaving this club,” Benzema said. “I had a dream and I signed for Madrid, and I wanted to finish at Madrid, but life sometimes gives you another opportunity and I’ve taken it along with my family.”
Benzema spoke at a farewell ceremony organised by Madrid at the clubhouse and attended by his teammates, former players and club president Florentino Pérez, who handed the French star a gold insignia.
“When you arrived you were almost a child and today you leave as one of our greatest legends and one of the greatest players of all time,” Pérez said. “Your legacy will last forever as a beautiful love story between Benzema and Real Madrid.
“I’m sure that wherever you are, you will be one of our greatest ambassadors and will continue to represent the values of Real Madrid. Because this is and always will be your home.”
The 35-year-old Benzema had been with Madrid since 2009, playing 14 seasons with the club. He helped Madrid win 25 titles, tied with Marcelo for the most by any player. Among Benzema’s titles were five Champions Leagues, four Spanish leagues, and five Club World Cups.
He was crucial in helping Madrid win last year’s Champions League for a record-extending 14th time.
“No Madrid fan or soccer fan will ever forget those impossible comebacks last year,” Pérez said.
Also at the ceremony was Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“He has always placed a lot of trust in me,” Benzema said. “I’ll never forget that. He’s a top coach and I’ve learned a lot with you. Thank you very much for everything.”
Benzema leaves as the club’s second all-time leading scorer with 354.
“It’s time for me to leave today and to have another story, but the most important thing for me is what I’ve won here,” Benzema said. “It’s been a good journey in my life. I was lucky enough to fulfil my childhood dream.”
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