Karim Benzema signs deal to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Real Madrid

<span>Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Karim Benzema has signed documents to join the Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad after confirming his departure from Real Madrid. The former France international’s contract with the Saudi champions is understood to be for two years, with the option of a further season.

Benzema is available on a free after voiding the one-year extension clause he had in his Madrid deal. Madrid’s manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said on Sunday the club “cannot be happy about his farewell but we have to respect his decision”. Benzema received a huge wage offer to join Al-Ittihad, who beat Al-Nassr, where Cristiano Ronaldo plays, to the title last month.

Lionel Messi is also wanted in Saudi Arabia and has been offered more than £350m a year by Al-Hilal. Barcelona are trying to re-sign the Argentina international, who is due to decide on his future after leaving Paris Saint-Germain. Messi is a tourism ambassador for Saudi Arabia and was suspended by PSG last month after making what the club regarded as an unauthorised two-day visit to the country.

“Leo wants to return to Barça and I would also like him to return,” Messi’s father, Jorge, said in an interview with the Twitch channel Jijantes FC on Monday. Both parties, though, feel time is running out. Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, and Messi Sr are trying to see whether a solution can be found within the boundaries of Barcelona’s financial restrictions.

Benzema, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, won 25 major trophies in his 14 years with Madrid. Injuries restricted his appearances this season and caused him to miss the World Cup in Qatar but he started 33 games in La Liga and the Champions League, scoring 23 goals, including one in his final appearance on Sunday against Athletic Bilbao. The 35-year-old is due to give a farewell press conference in Madrid on Tuesday.