What an amazing week for Al-Ittihad supporters! Days after the team won their first Saudi Pro League since 2009, French striker Karim Benzema, ex-Real Madrid player, has confirmed that he is joining the Jeddah club.
It’s a new dream come true for Al-Ittihad supporters and a frightening prospect for its rivals. The team has been relentless in this winning season. Not only did she have the tightest defense, with only 13 goals conceded in 30 games, but she also had a devastating strike force.
Abderrazak Hamdallah was the top scorer, scoring 21 goals, and Brazil’s Romarinho and Igor Coronado also stood out. Coach Nuno Santo already has a lot of talent.
Today, Benzema is one of the most feared strikers in the world, even at the age of 35. He may not be at the peak of his career but he still has a lot to offer, especially with his Ballon d’Or status.
He received this coveted individual award – given to the best player in the world – in October 2022, after his exploits saw Real Madrid come back more than once and become European champions, the French striker finishing top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals. It was the fifth time he had won club football’s biggest prize.
“If you can’t appreciate Benzema’s greatness, then you don’t understand anything about football,” said Zinedine Zidane (who could become a coach in Saudi Arabia), and there are few who disagree with that statement.
The number of medals won by Benzema in the Champions League is equal to that of Cristiano Ronaldo. The presence of his former Madrid team-mate in Saudi Arabia has made a difference on a personal level. Indeed, he reached out to Ronaldo to ask him what he thought of life in the country, on and off the pitch. The answer was certainly positive.
Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh sparked a chain reaction around the world, with interest in the Saudi Pro League surging dramatically. Ronaldo signed with Al-Nassr in December which suddenly put Saudi Arabia on the radar of many big names in world football. He was the first, but others were bound to follow.
The only question was whether they would be top players. It can be argued that Benzema falls into this category. With the Ballon d’Or being the first significant signing of the summer, this may be a warning sign.
The title rivals must accept Al-Ittihad’s challenge. If the champions build up their squad this much and so soon, other clubs will have to do the same. However, although Al-Nassr owns Ronaldo, the club failed to win in the end and currently do not have a head coach. That will soon change and, given the captain’s stature, the new coach will need to enjoy an excellent reputation.
Al-Hilal finished third and are also looking for a coach to replace Ramon Diaz. After being excluded from the last two transfer windows, the club will be very active. Lionel Messi is the object of his desires, as are Sergio Busquets and other players.
Al-Shabab will then invest to try to progress beyond fourth place, even before Al-Ahli, the other big club in Jeddah, which has rebounded from its surprising relegation, begins to flaunt its strength.
Everyone now knows what to expect. Karim Benzema has just made the best team in Saudi Arabia even better, which promises to be a sensational summer.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com