Saudi Football: Benzema scores on debut; Al-Ahli sign Mahrez

Benzema scores on debut for Al-Ittihad

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema scored the winning goal as he made his debut for Saudi Champions Al-Ittihad in their 2-1 win over Tunisian side Esperance in the Arab Club Champions Cup.

After netting an angled shot from outside the box in the second half on Thursday, the Frenchman told the Saudi SSC television channel: “It was a strong match and a good start after hard work in preparation.

“Little by little we will build a great team.”

Benzema, who joined Al-Ittihad as a free agent after a trophy-laden 14 years at Real Madrid, went to greet the cheering fans with his new team mate and compatriot N’golo Kante.

“The atmosphere is amazing and the fans motivated the team from the first minute until the end,” he added.

“We are in good shape and we will continue to work to reach the required level, and we know that with this support we can achieve great things, thanks to the fans.”

Al-Ahli sign forward Mahrez from Man City

Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez has joined Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli from Manchester City on a deal until 2027, both clubs said on Friday.

Financial details were not revealed, but British media reported the Premier League champions have accepted an offer from the Saudi side worth 35 million euros ($38.53 million) plus five million in add-ons.

“To play for Manchester City has been an honour and privilege,” Mahrez said in a statement. “I came to City to win trophies and enjoy my football and I achieved all that and so much more.

“I have had five unforgettable years with this football club, working with unbelievable players, fantastic supporters, and the best manager in the world…

“Manchester City will forever be a huge and happy part of my life.”

Mahrez scored 78 goals and made 59 assists in 236 appearances in all competitions with City, and won 11 trophies at the club, including five league titles following his move from Leicester City in 2018.

The 32-year-old saw his role for Pep Guardiola’s side reduced last season, scoring 15 goals in 47 games, but missing out on action in the FA Cup and Champions League finals as City won their historic treble.

Last year he had renewed his contract until 2025.

Mahrez will team up with Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who joined the Saudi club from Chelsea last month.

City could also part with another midfielder as Portuguese international Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal, according to British media reports.

The Saudi Pro league has become an attractive destination for Europe-based players since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al Nassr in January.

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