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French forward Karim Benzema is heading to the oldest and most famous club in Saudi Arabia, Al Ittihad.

Following Cristiano Ronaldo's footsteps, Benzema has also moved to Saudi Arabia. However, the current holder of the Ballon d'Or has joined a different club - Al Ittihad in Jeddah. Let's get acquainted with the new team of the French striker, which has surpassed Ronaldo's Al Nassr in the battle for the golden medals of the 2022/2023 season.

Which club did Karim Benzema choose?

Recently, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, created on behalf of the government for investment purposes, announced the acquisition of the country's four most prominent football clubs - Al Nassr, Al Ittihad, Al-Ahli, and Al Hilal. The Public Investment Fund already owns one of the top clubs in Europe, Newcastle, and it will continue attracting world football stars to Saudi Arabia. The fund will sign and distribute Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, or Benzema's caliber players to the teams.

The Frenchman chose Al Ittihad because it is the country's champion and will compete in the AFC Champions League and the Club World Cup in December 2023. This gold became the first for the black and yellows since 2009 and the ninth in the club's 95-year history, making it the oldest in the country. Interestingly, when Ronaldo arrived in Saudi Arabia, Al Nassr led the league table, but the Jeddah team surpassed its competitor and superstar.

Since mid-January, Al Ittihad has won 15 out of 18 league matches. They defeated Al Nassr, with Cristiano, on their turf, scoring 1-0. By the way, at the end of January, Al Ittihad also won the Saudi Arabian Super Cup, beating Al Nassr in the semifinals with a score of 3-1. After that match, the black and yellow fans provoked Ronaldo with chants of "Messi! Messi!"

Al Ittihad plays its home matches at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, a multi-functional stadium and sports complex located 30 kilometers north of Jeddah. It is the second-largest stadium in Saudi Arabia, with a capacity of 62,345 spectators. The stadium was opened in 2014.

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The best period in Al Ittihad's history was the mid-2000s when the Black and Yellows won the AFC Champions League twice in a row. The two-legged final against South Korean club Seongnam in 2004 was particularly impressive. The Jeddah team lost at home with a score of 1-3 but defeated their opponent away with a crushing 5-0 victory!

Al Ittihad is considered the most famous club in the country. The most important matches for the black and yellows are the derbies against Al-Ahli, their neighbors from Jeddah. Saudi Arabia also has its own "El Clásico": the games between Al Ittihad and Al Hilal, representing Riyadh's capital.

Who else among the foreign players is playing for Al Ittihad?

The most famous figure in Al Ittihad is not one of the players but the current head coach, Nuno Espírito Santo. The 49-year-old Portuguese is known worldwide as a former coach of Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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The Portuguese coach Nuno took charge of Al Ittihad in July 2022 and managed to build a championship-winning team within one season. Under his leadership, the team won 26 out of 35 matches and secured two trophies. However, they could not conquer the Saudi Arabian Cup, as Al Hilal eliminated them in the semifinals. Nuno was recognized as the Coach of the Month in the championship for his achievements in March and April.

Each club can have up to eight foreign players in the top division, but for some reason, only seven are permitted in the match lineup. Al Ittihad has fully utilized this quota. The team from Jeddah features four Brazilians: goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe (valued at €600,000 according to Transfermarkt), midfielders Igor Coronado (€6 million, the most expensive player in the club) and Bruno Henrique (€700,000), as well as forward Romarinho (€4.5 million). By the way, Marcelo Grohe has some experience playing for the Brazilian national team.

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There are also two Egyptian national team players in the Al Ittihad squad: defender Ahmed Hegazi (€2.5 million) and midfielder Tarek Hamed (€600,000). In addition to them, the black and yellow team includes Angolan winger Elder Costa (€3.5 million) and Moroccan forward Abderrazak Hamdallah (€3 million).

Hamdallah happens to be the top scorer for Al Ittihad. He scored 21 goals in the Saudi Arabian championship and won the Golden Boot race. Romarinho also made it to the top seven with 13 goals. Igor Coronado is the league's second-highest assist provider with 13 assists. Goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe kept the most clean sheets (18). Overall, Al Ittihad conceded only 13 goals in 30 rounds. The team's solid defense made them the champions of Saudi Arabia.

Benzema will become the new star of Al Ittihad. His presence on the team will force the club's management to part ways with either Hamdallah or Romarinho. Karim will likely not be the last well-known player to join the black and yellow squad in the summer of 2023. Rumors suggest that negotiations are underway with N'Golo Kante from Chelsea. Messi's name was also linked to Al Ittihad, but now Leo is heading to Al Hilal.