Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid’s manager, expressed surprise at Karim Benzema’s decision to leave after 14 decorated seasons, but insisted that the Ballon d’Or winner had the right to determine his future.
At 35, the striker is set to depart Real Madrid following a mutual agreement, amid reports suggesting a potential move to the Saudi Club in a significant deal.
In a post-match press conference following the face-off against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, Ancelotti told reporters, “His departure came as a surprise to everyone, but it needs to be understood. His decision came at the last moment.”
“He trained with us as usual yesterday, and today he made his decision. We have accepted it. I spoke with him this morning, he said he’s leaving and I understood,” Ancelotti added.
The manager continued, “He thought about it and his decision is part of the transitional process in this club, which will continue into next year. We have time to deal with it. We will have a strong lineup next season.”
In his last Spanish league match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Benzema scored a penalty to secure a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid against Bilbao, assuring his team a second-place finish ahead of city rivals, Atletico Madrid.
Benzema, who joined Real Madrid from Olympique Lyon in 2009, became the lead striker and primary threat following Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus in 2018. With more than 350 goals for Real Madrid, Benzema ranks second in the club’s all-time top scorers’ list, behind Ronaldo. His tenure concludes with an impressive 25 titles, including the Champions League five times and the Spanish league four times.
“I bid him farewell while having the privilege of coaching one of the world’s greatest players and one of the best forwards,” Ancelotti stated.
He added, “We cannot be happy about his departure, but we must respect his decision. He has earned the right to choose, and we all thank him for everything he’s done for this club. He has been a legendary figure and will forever remain in the memory of this club.”
It has also been reported that Real Madrid announced the departures of Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, and Mariano Diaz – all key attackers – necessitating President Florentino Perez to seek new signings this summer.