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Benzema and Ronlado in Saudi

Karim Benzema says his religion was a key factor in persuading him to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad.

WHAT HAPPENED? The 35-year-old joined the Saudi champions on a three-year contract after opting to leave Real Madrid at the end of his contract. The striker is set to earn around €200 million (£172m/$213m) per season in the Middle East, but he says there was more behind his decision than money.

WHAT THEY SAID: Asked why he chose to move to Saudi Arabia, the France international told the club’s media channel: “Well, because I’m muslim and this is a muslim country, and i have always wanted to live here.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The ex-Madrid and Lyon star also sees the potential of the Saudi Pro League and hopes to help it grow alongside his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Al-Nassr earlier this year.

“I’m so ready to show my talent in this new challenge, there are so many big names play here in this league – Cristiano Ronaldo and now me,” he said. “So, it’s very important to show that Saudi football can have a global impact, because it’s not only about playing well here, I should bring the success I managed to achieve in Europe and play the same way I used to do with Real Madrid.”

AND WHAT’S MORE: Benzema added: “[Ronaldo] is my friend and he is here. It’s amazing to see him here in Saudi Arabia, also he represents the new era of football in this country and the progress that’s happening here, which is important on the international level.”

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