Benzema: “I’m really surprised by the level in Saudi Arabia”

Karim Benzema was attracted by Saudi Arabia’s “huge project” and the fact that it is a Muslim country when he decided to end his time at Real Madrid to move to Al Ittihad, the French striker said on Wednesday.

Benzema became one of many big names to move to the Saudi League when he joined Al Ittihad as a free agent in June, signing a deal reportedly worth more than €100 million after ending his glittering 14-year stay at Real Madrid.

He was joined by compatriot and World Cup winner N’Golo Kante, Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, and winger Portuguese Jota in Al Ittihad’s bid to retain the league title amid fierce competition from big-budget opponents.

When the football project started here, it seemed like a huge project in every aspect, and I wanted to be part of it and help promote football in Saudi Arabia, and this is one of the reasons that made me come here,” Benzema said in an interview with the Saudi Pro League, published on the messaging platform X.

“Also, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and they welcomed me with open hands, and I immediately felt loved. As a Muslim, when we are in Mecca we feel at peace… It’s an exceptional place,” he added.

Benzema has scored three goals in seven league games this season and provided two assists.

“There’s a lot of passion and football history here and I’m happy with the level of play. I’m really surprised by the level in Saudi Arabia because in Europe we don’t see a lot of football games here,” he added.

“But now there are a lot of people (in Europe) who are watching the Saudi league after a lot of big names were brought here.”

Al Ittihad are fourth in the league table with 19 points, four behind leaders Al Hilal.