- Karim Benzema has had a turbulent season in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ittihad
- The former Real Madrid player is left out of the Asian Champions League squad
- Will Harry Kane regret joining Bayern Munich? Bundesliga champions looked shattered in Leverkusen – Listen to the everything is beginning podcast
Karim Benzema’s nightmare season at Al-Ittihad has continued after he was reportedly left out of the club’s traveling squad for an Asian Champions League clash.
The former Real Madrid striker was the Saudi Pro League side’s marquee signing last summer, arriving from the Spanish giants on a free transfer and signing a three-year deal.
The Frenchman has performed well on the field, scoring 15 goals in 24 games across the competition, but problems have arisen off the field following a dispute that began after the player returned late from training last month.
Benzema was said to have been excluded from training after returning from his 17-day holiday at the end of last month, angering his new employers after telling the striker to return to work on January 2.
One source said they couldn’t even make contact with him for 10 days while he was on holiday in Mauritius, although he was reportedly initially trapped there due to a cyclone.
Karim Benzema would have been excluded from the Al-Ittihad squad for the Asian Champions League by coach Marcelo Gallardo
Gallardo has adopted a tough stance with Benzema after returning from vacation 17 days late
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That meant Benzema did not travel with his teammates to their mid-season training camp in Dubai, prompting Benzema to ask to temporarily leave the club as he was linked with the likes of Manchester United.
And having been dropped from their Saudi Pro League match against Al-Tai last week, Benzema has now been dealt another blow after manager Marcelo Gallardo did not name him in the squad for their Asian Champions League trip to Navbahor Namangan in Uzbekistan, according to Half Spanish AS.
Al-Ittihad has a limit of five non-Asian players they can name in a Champions League squad, and Gallardo opted for defender Ahmed Hegazy, former Premier League midfielders N’Golo Kante and Fabinho and forwards Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah.
The report claims Benzema lacks match acumen after being excluded from the mid-season training camp and instead trained alone in Saudi Arabia while his teammates traveled by plane.
It comes after reports that Benzema, who has not played since a 5-2 defeat to Al-Nassr on Boxing Day, stormed out of a team session after refusing to follow Gallardo’s instructions, before being dropped. for the clash against Al-Tai.
Benzema’s future is up in the air and there were rumors that he could leave the club in January
Benzema had crucial talks with the club’s hierarchy in early February and it was announced that he would leave in January due to instability (with former club Lyon among the clubs accused of interests), but he stayed.
But despite doubts about his future and great speculation that he could leave, Benzema has insisted that he enjoys the “challenge” of playing for Al-Ittihad and that he is committed to his project.
speaking to GQ Middle EastBenzema said: “(Being in Saudi Arabia) is a new challenge (and one) that I like: a long-term project and in a Muslim country.”
‘I am not only a football player here in Saudi Arabia, I am also an ambassador. I am here to bring great European players, in the near future, even if there are already great players in the Saudi league. Our challenge is to raise it to the same level as the European Leagues.
‘Time will tell (what will happen next), but I will be the one to choose when my career will end or not.
‘Ultimately, I would like to be remembered as someone who started from the bottom and worked his way to the top alone, despite all the obstacles I have faced. “That’s something that makes me really proud.”