Karim Benzema is said to have stormed out of an Al Ittihad training session on Monday, having refused to take on board the instructions of manager Marcelo Gallardo.
The Frenchman’s future in Saudi Arabia was questioned throughout the January transfer window, with speculation heightened when he failed to return to training on time from a mid-season break.
It was quickly established that Benzema had genuinely been stranded in Mauritius due to a cyclone warning, but rumours of discontent over life in the Middle East have continued to dominate gossip columns around the world.
Chelsea and Manchester United were both linked with a move for the 36-year-old former Ballon d’Or winner, but 90min revealed that Saudi dealmakers were keen for Benzema to stay at Al Ittihad until at least the summer, with further talks planned over finding a positive resolution.
However, just a week after the closing of the January window, Benzema is said to have walked out of a training session after Gallardo ordered him to train alone. Leading Spanish publication Marca, who have close ties to his former club Real Madrid, further report that Al Ittihad are ‘furious’ at the situation, which saw him omitted from the matchday squad to face Al Tai.
Benzema spent 14 years on the books of Real Madrid after graduating from Lyon’s academy, becoming one of the most decorated footballers of all time. He scored an astonishing 354 goals in all competitions for Madrid, winning 25 major trophies including five UEFA Champions Leagues.
His 44-goal haul during 2021/22 led to a first Ballon d’Or win of his career – comprehensively beating second-place Sadio Mane by 356 voting points – but he opted to bring the curtain down on his career in the Spanish capital 12 months later by taking up a lucrative three-year contract in Saudi.
It’s reported that Benzema will earn £86m-per-year, making him one of the highest-paid players in the world, and his arrival to huge fanfare in Saudi Arabia sparked a mass exodus of some of Europe’s top stars.
Many are heading into the twilight of their career, though Saudi clubs were also able to secure deals for the likes of Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Gabri Veiga, who are all either in the peak of their careers or have their best years in front of them.