Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema will leave Real Madrid as a free agent in the close season after 14 trophy-laden years, the La Liga club has said.
The forward, 35, has been heavily linked this week with a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia.
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“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 on Sunday.
“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.
And 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 Cristiano 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 has lifted a record 25 trophies with Madrid, including five Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles and three Copa del Rey titles, 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 Ronaldo on 450.
Benzema’s final appearance for the club could be later on Sunday when Madrid host Athletic Bilbao in La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid confirmed on Saturday that Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz are all leaving this summer too, leaving plenty of space for new acquisitions in attack.
Ancelotti avoided talking on Saturday about Madrid’s alleged interest in England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
“I’m not going to talk about the future of the squad that is in place,” said Ancelotti.
“Kane is a great player, he is a Tottenham player, we have to respect the player and Tottenham.”