Benzema to stay in Saudi despite European interest - sources

Karim Benzema will finish the season at Al Ittihad despite the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner wanting to leave Saudi Arabia this month, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

As ESPN reported earlier in January, Benzema had been exploring his options in the transfer window after an underwhelming first six months in Jeddah.

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The former France international knew it was unlikely Al Ittihad would let him leave the club but considered returning to Europe a possibility.

Chelsea and his hometown club Lyon both inquired about his availability, sources told ESPN.

However, Al Ittihad refused to allow Benzema to leave the Gulf nation, instead attempting to loan him to another club in the Saudi Pro League, but the former Real Madrid striker declined.

Benzema, 36, signed a three-year deal with Al Ittihad in the summer as a free agent but has been disappointed by how his first half-season with the team has panned out.

Al Ittihad are seventh in the Saudi Pro League, 25 points behind leaders Al Hilal. Benzema has been criticised by the Saudi media despite scoring 15 goals in 24 games in all competitions so far this season.

Benzema is back with the squad preparing for the King's Cup quarterfinals against Al Faysali on Sunday, having been stranded in Mauritius after a storm hit the island and missing 15 days of training.