JEDDAH: The reigning champions of Saudi Arabia, Al-Ittihad, are reportedly edging ever closer to signing Karim Benzema from Real Madrid.
This comes in the wake of the Spanish club announcing on Sunday morning that the French forward is departing after 14 seasons.
The 35-year-old has been the subject of much speculation recently, with the striker expected to confirm his move in the coming days.
Benzema has reportedly received a lucrative offer from Al-Ittihad. He could become the latest major star to play in Saudi Arabia after his ex-teammate Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr.
Reports started circulating after Benzema also confirmed on Sunday he would leave the Bernabeu this summer. There was also a report that Al-Ittihad’s president and vice president traveled to Madrid on Saturday morning, on a mission to sign the player.
Many Al-Ittihad supporters are hoping that the Saudi champions can get this deal sealed over the next few days.
Hamza Al-Sayed, a sports columnist, told Arab News that Benzema would be a coup for the Kingdom. “Benzema has been crucial for Real Madrid in their quest for Champions League glory in recent years, and now he is considered to be one of the legendary players (to have) played for Real Madrid.”
Al-Sayed said that if Benzema joins Al-Ittihad, it would be a move to one of the oldest football clubs in Saudi Arabia that has won nine Saudi league titles and holds 48 championship wins, three of which are in Asia.
It would be “simply, a great player joining a great club,” said Al-Sayed.
Omar Abu Al-Faraj, a big supporter of Al-Ittihad, who has been a season ticketholder since the age of 14, and hardly missed a game, said he was excited at the possibility.
“I think this year is holding great moments for us as Ittihad’s fans, winning the Saudi Premier League, the Saudi Super Cup, qualified to play among top clubs at the FIFA Club World Cup, and now we are getting very close to sign the great striker Benzema. It has been really a lucky year and we are having amazing achievements,” he said.
“Having the great striker Benzema with our squad is really a great addition and we really look forward to seeing him in Al-Ittihad’s shirt.”
Many Al-Ittihad fans have taken to Twitter to express their delight at the prospect of the Ballon d’Or winner joining the team.
Sara Aziz tweeted: “@benzema all eyes on you, cant wait to see you wearing black and yellow.”
Faisal Al-Harbi, another fan, tweeted: “Welcome ‘Benzema’ to the greatest club in the Middle East.”
Fan Walid Al-Sharari tweeted: “Whatever you expect, your luck is great … Benzema left a great football club in Europe and now coming to the greatest club in Asia.”
Al-Ittihad have also been linked with Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, whose status at the English club is uncertain. The president and vice president of Al-Ittihad reportedly traveled to London on Monday to sign Kante.