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‘I’m hungry’: Benzema gets rousing Saudi welcome at Al-Ittihad presentation

KARIM Benzema was presented with fanfare as an Al-Ittihad player in front of thousands of fans in Saudi Arabia tonight as he officially became the latest player to move from Europe to the oil-rich kingdom.

Fireworks and flame-throwers greeted the former Real Madrid striker, wearing their black and yellow kit with the No.9, at Al-Ittihad’s 60,000-capacity stadium in Jeddah, about 950 kilometres from the country’s capital city Riyadh.

A giant ‘KB9’ was emblazoned on the pitch as Benzema said ‘Assalam o aleikum!’ to the excited crowd, before holding aloft the Ballon d’Or trophy he won last year.

Benzema, 35, is the latest superstar to make a big money switch to the Saudi Arabia Pro League after his former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al Nassr in January, and more high-profile players are being are reportedly on their way.

Benzema, who won five Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles and three Copas del Rey with Real Madrid, said he was hoping for more silverware with the Saudi champions.

“I’m hungry, I want to play and show what I can still do on the pitch, and especially to put the club where it should be, which is right at the top,” he said during a brief press conference.

Al-Ittihad fans, many wearing the club’s colours, waved yellow flags and placards saying “Benzema 9” and “Je t’aime Benzema” (I love you, Benzema – in French).

A drone image of the player’s face hovered above the venue as banners welcoming the Frenchman adorned the city, and according to press reports, 60,000 tickets at the symbolic price of nine riyals ($2.50) sold out within five hours.

Benzema joined Real Madrid in 2009 from Lyon and made 648 appearances for the Spanish giants and is second on the club’s all-time scoring list with 354 goals — only Ronaldo has more.

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Naija Times