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Karim Benzema insists he is happy at Al Ittihad amid transfer talk

Benzema insists he is happy at Al Ittihad amid transfer talk
© Reuters
Al Ittihad striker Karim Benzema has refuted claims of being discontented in Saudi Arabia and has stated that he has no conflicts with manager Marcelo Gallardo.

Karim Benzema has refuted claims of being discontented in Saudi Arabia and has stated that he has no conflicts with Al Ittihad manager Marcelo Gallardo, despite recent reports suggesting a strained relationship between the two.

At the start of the season, the Frenchman followed the footsteps of other top football stars by pursuing a lucrative deal in the Middle East, departing from Real Madrid in a big-money transfer.

In the January transfer window, numerous reports circulated suggesting that the French forward was dissatisfied with his time in the Saudi Pro League, just six months following his transfer to Al Ittihad, and was seeking a return to Europe.

Benzema was rumoured to be in talks with Manchester United and linked with a return to Los Blancos, but ultimately, no transfer materialised.

Several reports suggested that Benzema was excluded from first-team training after returning from his holiday 17 days late last month.

Al Ittihad's Karim Benzema applauds fans after the match on December 12, 2024© Reuters

Following this incident, Benzema did not join his teammates on their mid-season training camp in Dubai.

As a result, he was left out of the squad for their Saudi Pro League match against Al-Tai and was also excluded from the squad for their AFC Champions League trip to Navbahor Namangan in Uzbekistan.

However, after resuming duty for the People's Club in a 2-0 win over Al-Riyadh last week, the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner clarified that he never actually had any intention to leave the Saudi Pro League and dismissed the speculation regarding his desire to return to Europe as false.

In an interview following the victory, Benzema said: "I am back and now I am better. The story of my departure is not true and I am happy in Saudi Arabia. I have no problems with Gallardo, all those who say I want to return to Europe are liars."

He added: "I am very happy at Al Ittihad. For my part, I have no problems with anyone. Ask the coach about my absence, I was ready for the internship in Dubai."

Al Ittihad coach Marcelo Gallardo reacts on December 12, 2023© Reuters

This is not the first time that Benzema has refuted reports suggesting he was dissatisfied in Saudi Arabia, as he previously dismissed similar claims during an interview with GQ Middle East.

"It [being in Saudi] is a new challenge [and one] that I like – a long-term project and in a Muslim country. I'm not only a football player here in Saudi Arabia, I'm also an ambassador. I'm here to bring great European players in, in the near future, even if there are already great ones in the Saudi league. Our challenge is to raise it to the same level of the European Leagues."

Earlier this month, Benzema's future in Saudi Arabia appeared uncertain following a report from the Daily Mail suggesting that he abruptly left a first-team training session after being asked by coach Marcelo Gallardo to train alone.

A few days later, pictures emerged of Benzema at the club's facilities, but he was seen training only with the injured players.

Since joining Al Ittihad in the summer, the 36-year-old has been in good form, scoring 12 goals and providing six assists in 22 matches across all competitions.

The former Real Madrid star will next be seen in action on Monday when his club takes on Al-Wehda in the Saudi Pro League.

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Al-Ittihad new signing Karim Benzema waves to fans as he holds the Ballon d'Or trophy during his presentation on June 7, 2023
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