The French footballer scored in his final match for the club on the final day of the 22/23 La Liga season. Karim Benzema scored from a penalty during the match against Athletic Club to make it 1-1, after Madrid defender Eder Militao was fouled inside the box. The French forward, whose Madrid goal tally now stands at 354, was soon subbed off and received a standing ovation from the fans.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Ancelotti revealed that it came as a “surprise” as Benzema shared his decision on his future at the club on Sunday morning, hours before the final match of the season.
“His departure was a surprise for everyone, but you have to understand it. It was a last-minute decision. Yesterday he trained normally and today he made this decision.
“We understand it. I spoke to him this morning and he said that he was leaving and I understood it. He has done very well with me in these four years and also at the club. For that all my thanks.
“He has thought it through and his decision is part of the transition of this club, which continues and will continue next year. We have time to think about what we have to do. We will have a competitive squad next year.
“I am sending him off knowing that I have coached one of the best players in the world and one of the best forwards. He is a very kind, humble and serious person.
“We cannot be happy about his farewell, but we have to respect his decision. He has won the right to choose and we all thank him for what he has been able to do at this club. It has been legendary, something unforgettable, and it will remain forever in the memory of this club.”
Benzema, the Ballon d’Or holder and current UEFA player of the year joined Real from Lyon in July 2009 for a reported fee of 35 million euros and has been linked with a big-money move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad.
Real will now work on signing a replacement for Benzema, who is reportedly set to complete a big-money switch to Saudi Arabia. Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen are among those being linked with a switch to the Bernabeu, with Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard following Benzema through the exits to leave Ancelotti short of options in the final third.