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What did Karim Benzema say in Real Madrid farewell event?

As Benzema prepares to join Saudi club Al Ittihad, Real Madrid said goodbye to the striker at a tribute event at the Bernabéu on Tuesday.

(FILES) Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema applauds as he is substituted during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Athletic Club Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on June 4, 2023. Real Madrid's Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema has signed to join Saudi Arabia's Al-Ittihad for three years starting next season, a source in the Jeddah-based club told AFP on June 6. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

Karim Benzema says the time is right to leave Real Madrid, as the Frenchman prepares to join Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad. Benzema is departing Madrid after 14 seasons at the LaLiga club, with the striker now expected to move to the Middle East on a two-year deal worth around €200m.

“Now is the time for me to leave and experience a new story”

It’s tough to find the words when you’re feeling so many emotions, but I wanted to say thank you to Real Madrid and to my team-mates,” Benzema said during a farewell event at the Bernabéu on Tuesday.

“It has been a great time in my life. I’ve been lucky enough to fulfil a dream I had when I was a kid. I’ll never forget Real Madrid. It’s impossible: it’s the best club in the history of the game. But I think now is the time for me to leave and experience a new story.”

The Ballon d’Or holder added: “I had planned to finish my career at Real Madrid, but sometimes life gives you a different opportunity. It’s a very difficult decision that I’ve made with my family.”

Pérez hails “one of Madrid’s greatest legends”

Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, described Benzema as “one of the most incredible players in the club’s history”.

“We’ve seen you do incredible things in games across the world while wearing the Madrid shirt,” Pérez told Benzema. “And no Madridista will ever forget that. We’re all tremendously proud of you.

“You arrived here as a young lad and you’ve become a symbol of the club and one of its greatest legends.”

Pérez added: “You have been a player with a difference. It’s true that some took a while to understand you, but you’ve been an example of teamwork, humility, self-improvement and leadership.”

Madrid’s second-highest goalscorer

Benzema, who joined Madrid from French club Lyon in 2009, played 648 times for Los Blancos, scoring 354 goals. He is the fifth-highest appearance maker in the club’s history, and its second-top scorer.

During his time in the Spanish capital, he won four LaLiga titles, five Champions Leagues, three Copas del Rey, three Spanish Super Cups, four UEFA Super Cups and five FIFA World Cup Cups.

Having scored 44 goals in 46 games as Madrid won the Spanish and European titles in the 2021/22 season, Benzema received the men’s Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career in October.

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What did Karim Benzema say in Real Madrid farewell event?