It appears that Karim Benzema’s adventure in Saudi Arabia is not going according to plan.
The experienced striker moved to Al Ittihad in the summer of 2023 after bringing to an end his storied 14-year career at Real Madrid, where he scored 354 goals in 648 games, a tally bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo.
His former teammate has thrived in the Saudi Pro League after making a high-profile switch a year earlier, but Benzema’s time in the country has been an unhappier one.
Now rumours are building that a January exit could be in the offing for the 36-year-old French striker, with Manchester United among those linked with a possible move for the player during the transfer window.
The Sporting News looks at the latest on Benzema’s future and whether a switch to the Premier League — or, indeed, a return to a former club — could be on the cards.
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Is Karim Benzema leaving Saudi Arabia?
Benzema has been tipped to leave Saudi Arabia in the early part of 2024 after appearing to fall foul of Al Ittihad head coach Marcelo Gallardo.
According to Spanish outlet Marca, the striker did not show up for Al Ittihad’s training camp during their mid-season break from Saudi Pro League duties. As a result, Gallardo has instructed the player not to travel with the group for their warm-up camp.
Marca’s report added that Benzema missed training on three occasions before the turn of the year, strengthening suggestions that he is unhappy with life at the Jeddah-based club.
It was further reported by Fichajes that three clubs are interested in a possible deal for Benzema, who could be allowed to leave Al Ittihad on loan before the end of the January transfer window.
Is Karim Benzema going to Man United?
Fichajes claimed on January 14 that Manchester United are one of three clubs interested in a short-term deal for Benzema.
The Spanish outlet said United manager Erik ten Hag believes the experienced forward could add competition to his forward line and potentially boost the Red Devils’ meagre goalscoring output this season.
As of January 12, United had scored 22 goals in 20 Premier League games in 2023/24, which was the lowest figure in the entire division aside from the bottom two clubs, Burnley and Sheffield United. Young striker Rasmus Hojlund is a raw talent but only scored his first league goal for the club on December 26 against Aston Villa, while Anthony Martial has not completed 90 minutes in the league once this season.
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Is Karim Benzema going back to Real Madrid?
Fichajes also reported that Benzema’s former club Real Madrid may be interested in a short-term deal.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have relied mostly on midfielder Jude Bellingham for goals this season, with Espanyol loanee Joselu their main option as a No. 9. Bringing in Benzema for the rest of the season could appeal to the club before they pursue the signing of a marquee forward later in the year, most likely Kylian Mbappe.
Is Karim Benzema going back to Lyon?
The third club linked with Benzema are Lyon, where Benzema made his name in European football before signing for Madrid in 2009.
Benzema won four straight Ligue 1 titles with Les Gones from 2005 to 2008, and with Lyon third from bottom of France’s top flight, their need for more firepower is clear.
Karim Benzema contract, age, career, trophies won
Benzema turned 36 last December and has now been playing top-level football for nearly 20 years.
He progressed through Lyon’s youth system before going on to score 66 goals in 148 games in all competitions for the French club.
His form persuaded Real Madrid to sign him for an initial €35 million at a time when Manchester United were also heavily linked with a move. Benzema went on to win 24 major trophies with Los Blancos, including five UEFA Champions League titles. He is second in their all-time goalscoring charts behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (450 goals in 438 games).
Benzema signed for the lucrative Saudi Pro League side Al Ittihad in June 2023, having agreed a two-year contract that reportedly sees him earn €100 million per season, with a €20m bonus to work as an ambassador for the Saudi FIFA World Cup bid.
Karim Benzema trophies won
|Ligue 1 (x4), Coupe de France, Trophee des Champions (x2)
|La Liga (x4), Copa del Rey (x3), Supercopa de Espana (x3), UEFA Champions League (x5), UEFA Super Cup (x4), FIFA Club World Cup (x5)
|UEFA Nations League