Ancelotti: Benzema is one of the greatest players… His departure surprised everyone
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said Karim Benzema’s decision to leave after 14 trophy-laden seasons surprised everyone, but insisted the Ballon d’Or winner had the right to decide his own destiny.
The 35-year-old striker will leave Real after separating by mutual consent, amid reports that he will soon move to the Saudi Federation in a huge deal.
“His departure came as a surprise to everyone, but that must be understood,” Ancelotti told reporters after facing Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. His decision came at the last minute.”
He added: «He trained with us yesterday as usual and today he made his decision. We accepted that. I spoke to him this morning and he said he was leaving and I understood that.
He continued, “He has thought about it and his decision is part of the transitional process in this club that continues and will continue next year. We have time to deal with that. We will have a strong squad next season.”
Benzema scored a penalty goal to give Real a 1-1 draw against Bilbao on Sunday in his final La Liga match at the Santiago Bernabeu, ensuring his team finished second at the expense of neighbors and rivals Atletico Madrid.
Benzema, who joined Real in 2009 from Olympique Lyonnais, became the leader of the attack and the greatest source of danger after Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.
Benzema scored more than 350 goals with Real Madrid and ranks second in the club’s scorer list throughout its history behind Ronaldo, and concluded his career by winning 25 titles with the club, including the Champions League five times and the Spanish League four times.
Ancelotti said: «I bid farewell to him in light of the fact that I managed one of the greatest players in the world and one of the best strikers».
He added, “We cannot be happy that he is gone, but we have to respect his decision. He has earned the right to be selected and we all thank him for everything he has done for this club. He was an unforgettable and legendary figure, and he will forever remain in the memory of this club.
Real also announced earlier the departure of Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz, all of whom have offensive positions, which will prompt Florentino Perez, club president, to conclude deals during the summer.