N’Golo Kanté with the jersey of his new club Al-Ittihad, June 21, 2023. AL ITTIHAD FOOTBALL CLUB / TWITTER
The Saudi football club Al-Ittihad announced on Wednesday June 21 that it had recruited international midfielder and 2018 French world champion N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), who joins his compatriot Karim Benzema.
“Don’t listen to fake news. Kanté is an Ittihad player now! » tweeted the Jeddah club with a photo of the footballer wearing his yellow and black striped jersey, followed by a video of Benzema welcoming his new teammate.
“I am very excited to play with the Tigers, in front of the fans at Al-Jawhara [le joyau] »the club’s stadium in Jeddah, Kanté said in the same video.
“Welcome to our new Kanté tiger”for his part wrote, also on Twitter, the president of the club, Anmar Al-Hailee.
Concerns about his health
Kanté, 32, had signed a three-year pre-contract with Al-Ittihad at the beginning of June, but the Saudi club had conditioned his final recruitment on medical examinations, the player having suffered multiple injuries this season.
The native of Rueil-Malmaison, near Paris, lived through the desert last season, away from the field for more than six months due to a hamstring injury, then to an adductor. He won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021, champion of England with Chelsea in 2017 and Leicester in 2016.
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With 53 selections for the France team, Kanté remains a part of the Blues, even if he could not participate in the last World Cup in Qatar due to his health problems. He was also offered a new contract by Chelsea, who he joined in 2016.
N’Golo Kanté finds the Ballon d’Or 2022 Karim Benzema, 35, welcomed with great fanfare in early June in Jeddah by tens of thousands of Al-Ittihad supporters, after 14 seasons at Real Madrid.
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And this a few months after the thunderous arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in this country which launched a major offensive on several football stars playing in Europe, including the Argentinian Lionel Messi, who finally chose Inter Miami, in the United States .
The kingdom, criticized for human rights abuses, is determined to use football to improve its international image and has petrodollars galore to fulfill its ambitions.
The transfers of world football stars testify to the scale of the sporting ambitions of the monarchy, which plans to apply to organize the 2030 World Cup and the Olympic Games.
Saudi Arabia will also host the 2027 Asian Men’s Football Cup, the 2034 Asian Games, and even the 2029 Asian Winter Games, the awarding of which, considered by some to be an ecological aberration, was greeted with amazement. by the sports world.