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Football: N'Golo Kanté to join Saudi club Al-Ittihad

French footballer N'Golo Kanté, May 28, 2023.   -  
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JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP or licensors

Saudi Arabia

French footballer N'Golo Kanté is to join Saudi Arabia club Al-Ittihad after his contract was finalised on Tuesday.

Al-Ittihad announced on Wednesday their recruitment of the Chelsea midfielder and 2018 World Cup winner, who will join his fellow countryman Karim Benzema.

The 32-year-old signed a pre-contract in June for three years with the club. However, his recruitment was on condition of medical exams, after the player sustained several injuries this season. The contract was finalised on Tuesday. 

The Jeddah-based club made the announcement on Twitter accompanied by a photo of the footballer wearing his yellow and black striped jersey.

The club also posted a video of Benzema who congratulated Kanté, saying, "I am very happy to be playing with you once again. And of course, in the best team in Saudi." 

In the same video, Kante replied saying he is "very excited to play with the Tigers in front of the fans at Al-Jawhara [stadium]."

Kanté joins Benzema, 35, who was welcomed in Jeddah in early June by by thousands of Al-Ittihad supporters. Benzema made the move after fourteen seasons with Real Madrid.

"Kanté's arrival is considered as one of the most prestigious recruitments and one of the most important in the club's history," said Al-Ittihad. 

The two French players' recruitment comes amidst an offensive launched by Saudia Arabia on European football clubs. Cristiano Ronaldo joined Saudi club Al Nassr in late December 2022. 

The kingdom, criticised for human rights abuses, is determined to use football to improve its image on the world stage and has plenty of petrodollars to satisfy its ambitions. 

The recent transfers shows the extent of the monarchy's sporting ambitions, with a goal of putting themselves forwards for the role of organising the 2030 World Cup and the Olympic Games.

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