JEDDAH — In response to recent challenges faced by Al Ittihad, the Saudi football club has granted its captain, the renowned French striker Karim Benzema, a three-day leave, citing "special circumstances," as confirmed by a club official to the French Press Agency on Saturday.
Benzema, who earned the title of the 2022 World Player of the Year, is currently navigating a tough period with the Saudi team, marked by a series of setbacks, including three consecutive losses in local league matches and an exit from the FIFA Club World Cup at the hands of Egypt's Al Ahly. The 36-year-old former Real Madrid player notably missed a crucial penalty kick during the latter match, contributing to the team's challenges.
In response to the heightened criticism he has faced, Benzema opted to deactivate his Instagram account, where he boasts a massive following of 76 million people. Amid this backdrop, an unnamed official from Al Ittihad disclosed that Benzema had requested a three-day leave for undisclosed personal reasons. The official highlighted Benzema's professionalism and reiterated his commitment to the team.
Initially, this leave would have meant Benzema's absence from the scheduled match against Al Tai on Saturday night. However, the Saudi Pro League announced on Friday that adverse weather conditions prevented Al Ittihad from traveling to Hail to face Al Tai, leading to the postponement of the match. As a result, the rescheduled date for this fixture is now set for February 7, 2024, following a hiatus of over a month and a half due to the Asian Cup held in Qatar.
Currently positioned in the sixth position, with a 25-point deficit behind the leading team Al Hilal (with one fewer game played), Al Ittihad is now perceived as the weakest among the prominent football clubs in Saudi Arabia, including Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Al Ahli, and Al Ittihad, in both offensive and defensive aspects. The challenges faced by the team underscore the need for strategic adjustments as they navigate the remainder of the season.