On Tuesday evening, Al-Ittihad parted ways with their Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo. The latter would have had a big clash with Karim Benzema, who would have asked for his head from the management of the Saudi club.
Karim Benzema’s first season in Saudi Arabia is no fairy tale. Transferred from Real Madrid this summer to Al-Ittihad, the French striker has had checkered results with the Saudi club. Author of six goals since the start of the season in 12 matches, the Lyonnais is struggling to regain the exceptional form of his last two seasons at Real, which notably earned him crowned Ballon d’Or 2022.
Al-Ittihad, reigning Saudi Arabian champions and only 6th this season, have won only one of their last six matches. The Jeddah club is 11 points behind leader Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League and was once again beaten on Monday, 2-0 by Iraqi club Al-Qowa Al-Jawiy, in the Asian Champions League. This defeat was too much for coach Nuno Espirito Santo, who reached the point of no return with his scorer, Karim Benzema.
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Nino Espirito Santo fired
According to information from Saudi media Arriyadiyah , a major argument broke out between the two men following the defeat of Al-Ittihad in Iraq. Insults were even uttered from both sides. The Lusitano coach would have told “KB9”: “You are a great player, but you are too lazy to put pressure on the‘opponent.” The “Nueve” would have replied: “Don’t just talk to me, talk to the whole group.” Enraged, the former Tottenham coach reportedly added: “You are the captain, a reference for all players and the most important footballer. We must lead by example and be an example for everyone.” Tuesday is the Spanish media Revelo which announced that “KB9” wanted to fire the 49-year-old technician at all costs. A few hours after the clash, Al-Ittihad formalized the departure of the Portuguese coach via a press release on its social networks. “The club announced the end of its contract with Portuguese coach Nuno Santo“. The former French international would therefore have got the better of his coach.
This altercation between the two men is not surprising. From the end of August, the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Aswat revealed that Benzema and Espirito Santo did not get along, and that the Frenchman was not happy within the Saudi team. Al-Ittihad had denied the information, but the Portuguese technician, who did not necessarily want the Frenchman in his team, did not intend to include him in his starting eleven and did not want to give him the captain’s armband. The captaincy was a promise that Al-Ittihad leaders made to Benzema to sign him, who already receives a salary of 200 million per year in Saudi Arabia.
This Wednesday, the Saudi press took up the subject, like Goal Arabia, who titled “Karim Benzema plays it like Cristiano Ronaldo“. The media refers to a similar story on the side of Al-Nr, where Cristiano Ronaldo had demanded, at the time, the dismissal of Rudi Garcia. While waiting to find a new coach, istant Han Khalifa will act as interim coach at Al-Ittihad. The names of Zinedine Zidane and Laurent Blanc, two French coaches that Benzema knows well, have notably been mentioned to sit on the bench of the Saudi team, but nothing has been done yet.