Karim Benzema has responded to the transfer speculation linking him with an exit from Al-Ittihad this month, with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United considering luring him away from the Saudi Pro League.
Benzema only joined the Saudi Arabian side in the summer as the first of their marquee signings to boost the country’s footballing profile with a host of global superstars on lucrative contracts.
However, despite scoring nine goals in 15 games for his new side, Benzema was said to be pushing for a return to Europe, having dealt with disciplinary issues by missing training and being left out of the team’s mid-season training camp.
Reports in France this week claimed that Benzema wanted to leave Saudi Arabia as he ‘felt under pressure’, which was preventing him from ‘giving his best’ to Al-Ittihad.
But in a twist in the saga, Benzema denied the suggestion that he was looking to leave, with a member of his entourage stating: “These are media inventions because Karim doesn’t train with the team. We’re used to it.”
Benzema is quoted by L’Equipe as saying: “It’s completely false! The French media don’t know what to invent any more. The bigger it is, the better.”
Benzema wanted by major European sides
Benzema is believed to have been absent from training on multiple occasions and his situation reached a boiling point when he returned late to Saudi Arabia from his mid-season break, resulting in him missing the team’s travel to the United Arab Emirates for a training camp.
Al-Ittihad manager Marcelo Gallardo forced Benzema to remain in Saudi Arabia and train separately which ultimately fuelled speculation that the striker would join Jordan Henderson in being another high-profile player to leave the country so soon after arriving.
However, while things could still change towards the end of the month, it appears Benzema will remain in Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future, with the 36-year-old still having more than two years remaining on his contract.