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Lyon exploring Karim Benzema transfer from Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad

Lyon are exploring a move to bring Karim Benzema back to the club.

Benzema, 34, signed a three-year contract with Saudi Pro League (SPL) side Al Ittihad after Real Madrid in the summer, meaning any potential deal with Lyon — the club he joined aged nine and won three titles with before moving to Real Madrid in 2009 — will be complicated.

Al Ittihad have yet to receive any offers for Benzema and the striker has not told the club that he wants to leave at this stage, despite his recent absence over the Saudi Arabian mid-season break.

Benzema left on holiday last week without permission and was late reporting back to the team. There are more meetings planned this week between Benzema and Al Ittihad to clear the air.

Despite scoring 12 goals in 20 appearances in all competitions for Al Ittihad, Benzema has faced criticism from fans over poor performances and has subsequently deleted his Instagram profile.

Having won the title last season, Al Ittihad sit seventh of 18 teams in the SPL and lost their last three league games before the break. They return to action on February 4 with a King’s Cup quarter-final against Al Faisaly.

Benzema was one of several high-profile players to swap Europe for Saudi Arabia in the summer, after the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) took control of four clubs — Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Ahli and Al Hilal.

Jordan Henderson also joined Al Ettifaq but left the SPL club last week to sign for Ajax, just six months into a three-year deal. Henderson’s exit so soon into his contract means he stands to lose out on potential earnings due to Saudi Arabia’s tax-free salary benefits only kicking in after two years of residency.

Henderson returned to Europe with Ajax last week after only 19 appearances for Al Ettifaq (Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

Lyon, meanwhile, have experienced severe difficulties on and off the pitch this season in what is is their first full season under Eagle Football, the multi-club group created by American businessman John Textor. Eagle bought a majority stake in the club from long-term owner Jean-Michel Aulas in December 2022.

Having sacked Laurent Blanc and then Fabio Grosso, Lyon are on to their third head coach of the campaign — Pierre Sage — and remain 16th in Ligue 1, occupying the relegation play-off spot. Fan unrest has also followed Lyon’s poor form, with supporters notably chastising the team following a 4-1 home defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in September.

Financial issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the Mediapro television deal have also impacted Lyon’s ability to recruit in recent transfer windows, while key players and academy products have continued to be sold.

Benzema joined Madrid from Lyon for an initial £30million (now $38.2m) in 2009 and is the La Liga side’s second top-scorer of all-time with 353 goals in 647 games — behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 450 times in 438 appearances.

The former France international lifted 24 trophies during his time at Madrid, including four La Liga titles and five Champions League trophies.

(Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

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