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Karim Benzema says he expected to finish his playing career at Real Madrid instead of moving to another club.

The 35-year-old confirmed at the weekend that he would be leaving the Spanish capital after 14 years.

Benzema, who signed for Real in 2009 from French side Lyon for an initial £30million, believes it is the right time for him “to leave and see another story”.

During a farewell press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday: “I don’t have many more words for you. It’s a bit of a sad day because I’m leaving the club and it hurts me.

“I had a dream in my head, to sign for Madrid and to finish at Madrid. But sometimes there are other opportunities. Real Madrid will always be my family and I will always watch their games.

“I’m never going to forget Real Madrid because it’s impossible, it’s the best club in the world, in history. There is no more. But I think it’s time for me to leave and see another story.”

The Athletic reported last week that Benzema had decided to leave Real after receiving a lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia. And, after meeting officials from Al Ittihad in Madrid on Monday, the former France international is set to join the Saudi Pro League champions.

Real president Florentino Perez added: “Karim, you have been an example of behaviour and professionalism in our club, an example for the children who dream one day to be like you, whether they play football or not. As president, I have to tell you that in all these years I couldn’t put a but on your conduct or your behaviour, and you know that is not easy to achieve.

“You have always represented the values of Real Madrid and today, after everything you have done at this club, I want to tell you that you have earned the right to choose your destiny, a future that only belongs to you and we must accept and respect it.”

Benzema marked his 648th and final game as a Real player by scoring his 354th goal for the club, later receiving a standing ovation as he was substituted in a 1-1 La Liga draw with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

He won his first Ballon d’Or last year and has lifted 24 trophies during his time at the club, including four La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues.

Benzema scored a career-best 44 goals in 46 appearances to lead Real to a La Liga-Champions League double last season but he has struggled with muscular problems this campaign.

(Photo: Getty Images)



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