JEDDAH: Over 50,000 Al-Ittihad fans turned out to catch the first glimpse of Karim Benzema wearing his new black and yellow, number 9 jersey at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Thursday, as part of the Saudi League champions’ official team presentation.
The former Real Madrid forward and Ballon d’Or holder signed for three seasons to play for Al-Ittihad, in a contract worth an estimated €200m a year.
The 35-year-old striker was introduced amid enthusiastic chants from Al-Ittihad supporters.
With fireworks exploding around him, Benzema emerged on the pitch to present fans with the moment they had been waiting for since the announcement was made on Tuesday.
The Frenchman lapped up the adulation of his new home – juggling a ball, waving hands, blowing kisses to fans and tossing balls into the crowd.
Expectations are high that, with the addition of Benzema, Al-Ittihad will have a shot at competing for both the Saudi Pro League and the Asian Champions League.
The player, who attended a press conference with Abdul Wahab Abid, the CEO of Al-Ittihad club to mark the unveiling ceremony, expressed his satisfaction with signing for Al-Ittihad club, appreciating the reception accorded to him.
During the press conference, Benzema said he is looking forward to a new challenge and that he felt very excited to add more titles with Al-Ittihad.
He said: “Being with such a great team makes me to work hard to put a smile to the huge fans of Al-Ittihad.”
Asked why he chose Al-Ittihad, he added: ” I am proud to be here in Saudi Arabia with such a team with great reputation,” and affirmed that his family is very happy in Saudi Arabia.
The CEO of Al-Ittihad told the press that his club is proud to have such a legendary player in its squad for the next three years.
“I believe we are lucky to bring Benzema to Saudi Arabia to represent our club. We are looking forward to seeing him on the field with his teammates to bring more glory locally and internationally,” he said.
Benzema won 25 trophies and scored 353 goals in 647 appearances to become Real’s second all-time top scorer after Cristiano Ronaldo.
His first appearance for Real Madrid in 2009 was against Al-Ittihad during the Friendly Peace Tournament held in Madrid.