Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — A brewing discord has emerged within Saudi Arabian football club Al-Ittihad, involving French football sensation Karim Benzema and Portuguese head coach Nuno Santo, local media reported on Wednesday.
The strained relationship between these two key figures is causing ripples within the team as they embark on their professional journey into the new season.
According to insiders cited by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Coach Santo has openly expressed concerns about Benzema’s compatibility with his preferred playing style.
The sources indicate that Coach Santo did not actively seek to include the French star in the team’s roster, pointing to a potential mismatch between the player’s strengths and the coach’s tactical approach.
It is suggested that Coach Santo voiced skepticism regarding Benzema’s fit within his vision for the squad.
Conversely, Benzema reportedly confided in a Saudi negotiator who facilitated his move to Al-Ittihad, expressing unease and dissatisfaction with Coach Santo’s management of their professional relationship.
The player apparently felt subjected to treatment he deemed unprofessional.
In an attempt to wield greater influence within the team, Benzema allegedly expressed his desire to be awarded the captain’s armband.
Citing his extensive experience and status as a star player, the French forward advocated for a leadership role. However, Coach Santo rebuffed this request, opting for Brazilian player Romarinho and later Ahmed Sharahili as team captains.
Benzema’s concerns escalated, prompting a meeting with the Saudi negotiator to address the issues arising under Coach Santo’s guidance. Seeking to resolve the tensions, Benzema engaged in a constructive dialogue, expressing a willingness to find common ground.
While Benzema’s recent performances in the King Salman Arab Clubs Championship have been noteworthy, with three goals and an assist contributing to the team’s success, his absence from scoring in two Saudi Professional League matches has raised concerns.
The evolving situation leaves questions about whether the differences between the player and coach can be reconciled to ensure a harmonious and successful season for Al-Ittihad.