Who are Al Ittihad? Everything to know about Karim Benzema’s potential new club in Saudi Arabia amid transfer links

Cristiano Ronaldo

With the summer transfer window opening in the coming weeks, the prospect of big names moving to Saudi Arabia could become the norm.

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr in January, Saudi Pro League clubs have indicated their intention to bring more world-class stars to the Middle East.

Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema is the latest name to be linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, with reigning Saudi champions Al Ittihad leading the race to land the Frenchman.

With Real Madrid confirming his exit, the veteran striker could be tempted by a new challenge.

MORE: Saudi Pro League 2022-2023 top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo ranks in Golden Boot race

Who are Al Ittihad?

Al Ittihad is the second most successful team in Saudi Pro League history with their title in 2023, ahead of Ronaldo’s Al Nassr as they have won nine league titles in total.

Al Hilal is the undisputed dominant force in Saudi Arabian football with 18 league titles and four AFC Champions League trophies.

However, Al Ittihad is determined to maintain contact with Al Hilal and Al Nassr in the years to come, with former Premier League manager Nuno Espirito Santo continuing as manager in the 2023/24 season.

Genie raises the trophy ???????? pic.twitter.com/MQbZIXdmCT

– Saudi Roshan League (@SPL) May 31, 2023

Based in the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, Al Ittihad is representative of the other side of Saudi Arabia, with a 950 km route across the country dividing from Al Hilal/Al Nassr in the capital Riyadh.

Will Karim Benzema join Al Ittihad?

Benzema’s contract at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu expired at the end of June and although Al Ittihad appeared close to a 12-month extension, interest in Al Ittihad has changed the picture.

Real Madrid were only willing to offer him another 12 months as per their policy for players over 30, however Al Ittihad are willing to offer two years.

On June 4 Los Blancos announced that the striker was leaving the club.

According to reports from Britain and Spain, Al Ittihad has Benzema in their sights as a key summer signing, while Santo is keen to ensure his side don’t fall behind Al Nassr and Al Hilal.

Karim Benzema will join Saudi Arabia club Al Ittihad when his contract with Real Madrid expires this month, sources have told ESPN.

Benzema was offered a two-year deal worth €400m for a move to Saudi Arabia in January. pic.twitter.com/dXwoNByCI0

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 1, 2023

Although Ronaldo is already in his ranks, Al Nassr is expected to grow stronger in the coming weeks, with Al Hilal working on a free transfer for Lionel Messi.

According to reports from Diario AS, Al Ittihad is aiming to further his interest in Benzema as part of an annual salary package of €85m. British newspaper The Independent reports that Al Hilal will compete with them with a similar offer if they fail to land Messi .

The forward downplayed reports of a move to Saudi Arabia on Thursday when asked to discuss the speculation, saying: “Talking about what? Why talk about the future when I’m in Madrid… Who is speaking is the Internet and reality is not the Internet.” .”

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Al Ittihad history, trophies, former players

Al Nassr was founded in 1927 and the club prides itself on being the longest running sports club in Saudi Arabia.

With nine league titles, they top all clubs in the country except Al Hilal and are tied with Al Nassr in the all-time rankings.

The trio are the established force in Saudi Arabian football with 47 seasons each in the top flight, followed by 46 for Al Shabab and Al Ahli.

This pattern of following Al Hilal in historical lists continues in the King Cup and Saudi Crown Prince Cup, with nine versus 13 and eight versus 13.

Al Ittihad have won two AFC Champions League titles in 2004 and 2005, making them one of only four clubs to retain their title in the competition.

A possible move by Benzema would increase Al Ittihad’s profile on a global scale as former big-name players don’t fit his profile.

Former Premier League players such as Wilfried Bony, Sulley Muntari and Titi Camara have enjoyed their time in Jeddah after stints for 1994 World Cup duo Roberto Donadoni and Bebeto.

Dave Gallo

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