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La Liga: Karim Benzema to leave Real Madrid

Real Madrid will bid farewell to a modern-day great after confirming Karim Benzema's departure from the Bernabeu at the end of the season. 

Following days of speculation, Los Blancos announced on Sunday morning that their second-highest goalscorer of all-time would be moving on this summer after 14 years at the club. 

Benzema is understood to have received an extremely lucrative offer to join Cristiano Ronaldo in plying his trade in Saudi Arabia and despite still having a year left to run on his contract with Real, the club are ready to let him go on a free transfer. 

The 35-year-old's forthcoming exit ends a remarkably successful stay in the Spanish capital and leaves Real with a huge hole to fill heading into the summer transfer window.

From substitute to superstar

Benzema arrived in Madrid in the summer of 2009 as part of an exciting overhaul of the Real squad. His move from Lyon, where he won four Ligue 1 titles and was named Player of the Year in 2008, was overshadowed by deals for Ronaldo and Kaka and Benzema initially struggled to find a role. 

For two years, he was largely used off the bench due to the form of Gonzalo Higuain, while his attitude was subject to criticism from the media and managers alike.

But, after spending the summer of 2011 working on his fitness, Benzema returned to Real in excellent shape and would go on firmly establish himself in the Madrid line-up. 

He was a mainstay from that point on, forming a pivotal part of the BBC connection of Benzema, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale that powered Real to four Champions League titles between 2014 and 2018.

Replacing Ronaldo

When Ronaldo left the Bernabeu in 2018, Benzema moved from a false nine to leading the line, a role he would come to thrive in, netting a minimum 27 goals per season in his five years as Real's attacking focal point. 

Last season, he scored a career-best 44 goals in 46 games, lifting him ahead of Raul and into second on Real's list of all-time top goalscorers. 

Benzema's remarkable form saw him collect the Ballon d'Or at the end of last year and even though muscle issues have hindered him this season, as of writing, he's still managed to score 30 goals. 

The Frenchman leaves Real having helped them win the Copa del Rey this season, the 25th piece of silverware during his time with Los Blancos, equalling the record held by Marcelo for trophies won at the club. 

No one has picked up the Champions League more than Benzema's haul of five European Cups, cementing his legacy at a club synonymous with continental domination. 

Ahead of his final appearance against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, available on bet365's European Soccer Live Streaming Highlights, Benzema has made 647 appearances for Real, scoring 353 goals and providing a club-record 165 assists.

What next for Benzema and Real Madrid?

The media in Saudi Arabia have reported that Benzema will join Al-Ittihad on a record-breaking deal as the Middle Eastern nation continues to splash the cash in order to raise the profile of its domestic league. 

The riches of the Saudi Pro League provide added competition to Real, who are set for a busy summer, with Benzema the latest player to announce they are leaving at the end of the season. 

Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio have already confirmed they are moving on, while Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Nacho and Dani Ceballos are all set to fall out of contract at the end of June, although Modric and Kroos are likely to be retained.

Having finished a distant second to Barcelona in La Liga's title race and failed to defend their Champions League title, an overhaul of the squad was likely with or without departures. 

And Real could be about to repeat their transformative 2009 summer transfer window with the club expected to sign England midfielder Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. 

Head coach Carlo Ancelotti has also recently spoken of his admiration of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who would seem an ideal replacement for Benzema. 

Real are 6/4 to sign Kane but are likely to face stiff competition for the England striker's signature should he become available, with Manchester United 9/4 to snap him up. 

Kane's goalscoring record and all-round play will make him an attractive option in Real's search for the next Benzema, but there's no doubt whoever arrives this summer has some huge shoes to fill.

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