Manchester United and Arsenal have again been linked with moves for legendary striker Karim Benzema, but the Frenchman says reports that he wants to leave Al Ittihad are “completely false”.
Benzema joined Al Ittihad from 14-time Champions League winners Real Madrid in the summer of 2023 – penning a three-year contract reported to be worth £172m per year in the process – but various reports have claimed he is unsettled in Saudi Arabia.
90min recently revealed that any exit from the Middle East would be complicated even if the 36-year-old did want to leave. Benzema was seen as the poster boy signing for the Saudi Pro League, leading an exodus of a number of high-profile players from Europe, and any potential exit would have to be authorised by not only Al Ittihad coach Marcelo Gallardo and sporting director Roman Planes, but also Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport.
Benzema has not communicated to Al Ittihad that he is unhappy and seeking an exit, 90min further understands, but that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from spinning after he returned to training late from a holiday in Mauritius.
Reports in France claimed on Tuesday that Benzema had demanded a ‘temporary’ exit from Al Ittihad, while leading Spanish publication Marca reported that a meeting was due to be held with the club’s hierarchy after Manchester United and Arsenal expressed an interest in signing him.
Former club Lyon are also said to be in the mix for Benzema, who scored 354 goals in a trophy-laden 14 years at Real Madrid, but it’s a potential switch to the Premier League that has whetted the appetites of those wanting to see the Frenchman try his hand in England.
Benzema has now moved to shut down talk of a potential exit, telling L’Equipe: “It’s completely false! The French media don’t know what to invent any more. The bigger the better.”
Benzema’s astronomical pay packet would further complicate matters – Jordan Henderson ended up terminating his contract at Al Ettifaq so that he could join Ajax – but he would undoubtedly aid the Premier League duo as they seek to bolster their goalscoring options.
United are struggling in the Premier League, sitting eighth in the table after losing nine of their 21 games, and they have scored just 24 goals. Rasmus Hojlund has played well in flashes but Marcus Rashford has struggled and Anthony Martial has been non-existent from a goalscoring perspective.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are clinging on to Premier League title aspirations, but they too have had trouble finding the back of the net. Saturday’s 5-0 win over Crystal Palace bucked the trend – emphatically putting to bed back-to-back defeats to West Ham United and Fulham – but Gabriel Jesus has scored just three times in the competition and Bukayo Saka is the Gunners’ top scorer on six.
Benzema has scored nine goals and contributed five assists in 15 appearances for Al Ittihad, but they are well off the pace in the Saudi Pro League title race. Al Hilal are undefeated top of the table, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, and are a whopping 25 points clear of Al Ittihad.
What we know
- Benzema moved to Saudi Arabia last summer but return to Europe rumoured
- 36-year-old responds to intensifying media speculation
- Manchester United and Arsenal both on look out for new strikers.