Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has agreed a deal to end his time at the club, the Spanish side said on Sunday.
Benzema has lifted 25 trophies with Madrid, including five Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles and three Copas del Rey and is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player.
He is Real Madrid’s second top scorer of all-time, with 353 goals for Madrid, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo on 450.
“Real Madrid and our captain Karim Benzema have agreed to put an end to his brilliant and unforgettable era as a player at our club,” said Los Blancos in a statement.
“Madrid want to show their gratitude and all their love to someone who is one of our greatest legends.”
The announcement comes after Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti had said Saturday there was “no doubt” about Benzema’s future being at Madrid, noting the forward had one more year left on his contract.
Benzema himself had said “not everything you read on the internet is reality” after reports emerged in the week about his potential departure to Saudi Arabia.
The French forward joined Madrid in 2009 from Ligue 1 side Lyon.
Benzema established himself as a key player alongside Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the vaunted “BBC” attacking trident, before developing into the team’s leader when the Portuguese striker left in 2018.
Benzema’s final appearance for the club could be later on Sunday when Madrid host Athletic Bilbao in the La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Benzema battled with Gonzalo Higuain for a regular starting spot in his early days at Madrid, and was once derided by then-coach Jose Mourinho for being a “cat” instead of the “hunting dog” he wanted.
While playing alongside Ronaldo, Benzema took the role of supplier and worked hard to provide for his team-mate.
The forward greatly increased his goal output after Ronaldo left in 2018, playing centrally, and scored 44 in 46 games in the 2021-22 season, a performance that earned him the 2022 Ballon d’Or.
Benzema’s most recent conquest was the Copa del Rey in May, with Real Madrid beating Osasuna to lift the Spanish cup for the first time since 2014.
Benzema may cherish the 2021-22 Champions League triumph the most of all his successes because he played a crucial role in winning it.
The forward scored a stunning hat-trick to help Madrid come from behind against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 and progress.
Benzema netted another treble at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals against Chelsea and scored the extra-time goal in the second leg which sent his team into the semi-finals.
The forward also scored three goals over two games against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to help Madrid reach the final, which they won against Liverpool in Paris – his first Champions League triumph as the team’s figurehead.
With inputs from AFP.
Benzema’s Real Madrid career in numbers
|European Super Cups||4||2||1|
|Spanish Super Cups||4||7||3|
|Copa del Rey||3||25||12|
|Club World Cups||5||4||3|
Here are some of the reactions on social media to Benzema’s departure: