Karim Benzema’s decision to leave Real Madrid at the end of the current campaign caught Carlo Ancelotti off guard, the coach has acknowledged.
After a frantic 48 hours of uncertainty over his future, the 35-year-old will leave the Santiago Bernabeu for Saudi Arabia after spending 14 years there.
On Thursday, According to reports, Benzema had told Real Madrid that he would be departing at the conclusion of the current campaign, only for the Frenchman to change his mind following additional discussions with club president Florentino Perez.
Benzema’s final appearance for Real Madrid came in the 1-1 draw with Athletic Club on the final day of the La Liga season. Real Madrid then confirmed on Sunday morning that Benzema would be leaving the team after all.
Benzema leaves the Spanish capital as one of the most decorated players in history, and boss Ancelotti and his teammates will be deeply saddened by his departure.
The team now needs to recruit a top-tier striker who can lead the line, score goals, and participate in link-up play, according to the Italian, who acknowledged that losing Benzema is not only a significant setback but also a surprise.
“I have trained one of the best in the world. Not only as a forward, as a complete footballer. He is a great person, kind, humble, serious,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“We cannot be happy, but we must respect him. He earned the right to decide. He has done legendary, unforgettable things. It was a surprise, but it is part of a transition process. We have time to think about what we will do. I spoke to him [on Sunday] morning and he told me he was leaving. I showed him all my respect for everything he has done.”
On how Real Madrid can replace Benzema, he added: “We want to sign a striker who scores goals, gets involved in play and adapts to our game. But games are not only won with forwards. We have two youngsters with a lot of prominence in Vinicius [Junior] and Rodrygo.”
As Benzema’s departure has been announced, sources have told 90min that Real Madrid will intensify their chase of Harry Kane of Tottenham, with Kai Havertz and Victor Osimhen also on the club’s shortlist.
After another unsuccessful year in north London, Kane, who has 30 Premier League goals last season, has just one year left on his contract with Tottenham and must make a significant choice about his future.