Real Madrid have confirmed Karim Benzema will depart as a free agent, and varying reports claim the void he’ll leave could be filled by strikers from Liverpool, Tottenham or Chelsea.
Benzema, 35, remains one of world football’s elite centre-forwards despite his advancing age. Indeed, the fact he’s the current Ballon d’Or holder is proof of that.
Benzema’s current deal at the Bernabeu expires this summer and Real had hoped the veteran Frenchman would sign a one-year extension.
The club’s transfer priority this summer is the capture of Jude Bellingham. As such, Real intended to delay their pursuit of a Benzema successor until 2024.
However, amid intense speculation he’s bound for Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, Real Madrid have released a statement that confirms Benzema will leave the club.
A club statement read: ‘Real Madrid Football Club and our captain Karim Benzema have agreed to bring his brilliant and unforgettable time as a player at our club to a close.’
Real went on to pay tribute to Benzema who has been in Madrid since arriving from Lyon in 2009.
Benzema’s mark of 353 goals places him behind just Cristiano Ronaldo (450) in the club’s all-time leading goal scorers chart. Real legends Raul (323) and Alfredo di Stefano (308) both trail Benzema.
With the Frenchman on the move, attention will quickly shift to who becomes Carlo Ancelotti’s new starting centre-forward. On that front, links with three Premier League strikers are growing and given the Benzema announcement, will only get stronger.
Kane, Firmino, Havertz deals all being explored
Firstly, today’s Transfer Gossip brought news of Ancelotti ordering Real’s board to sign Tottenham talisman, Harry Kane.
Real’s decision-makers were receptive to their manager’s plea and have duly begun exploring a move.
However, just as Man City found out in the past and as Man Utd are finding out right now, prising Kane out of Spurs is no small feat.
What’s more, Kane may yet put the speculation to bed by signing a new contract in north London over the coming weeks and months. Even if he refuses to sign a new deal, the £100m-plus asking price for a player who’ll turn 30 this summer might give Real cold feet.
Another striker at a similar stage in his career is Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. However, the Brazilian will leave the Reds as a free agent on June 30 and as such, won’t require a transfer fee.
The Independent suggested Benzema leaving could ‘hasten’ Real’s proposed move for Firmino. Signing Firmino to a short-term deal for no fee would also leave Real well placed to move for known targets Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe in 2024.
The final EPL-based option in Real’s sights is Kai Havertz of Chelsea.
However, Spanish outlet Marca report Mauricio Pochettino views Havertz as part of his plans and thus won’t entertain a sale.
A firm offer from Real would test that stance and aged 23, Havertz would represent a much longer-term option than Kane or Firmino.
However, for the time being at least, Pochettino sees Havertz as an ‘essential’ cog in his wheel.