By Osama Khairy
(Reuters) – The arrival of Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema at Saudi Arabia champions Al-Ittihad may not be all positive as the deal puts the future of Saudi Pro League top scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah in doubt.
On Tuesday, Al-Ittihad signed Real Madrid’s second all-time top scorer, with 354 goals in a trophy-laden 14 years, on a three-year mega deal, before confirming he will wear the number nine shirt at the expense of Hamdallah.
The Moroccan forward was a key part of Al-Ittihad’s success last season. Hamdallah, 32, three years younger than Benzema, scored 21 goals in 26 games and clinched the top scorer award ahead of Al-Nassr’s Anderson Talisca and Al-Hilal’s Odion Ighalo.
Hamdallah was particularly clinical in the big games and was one of the main reasons that Al-Ittihad won the title for the first time since 2009.
The player was relaxed about the possibility of Benzema’s arrival when asked about it by local media last week.
“We welcome any player who comes and can help the team. He is welcome, and we do not have a problem,” he said.
“We are great players, and we are used to competing inside and outside the field, and we are available for anything,” the forward added.
Hamdallah has not commented since Benzema’s deal was confirmed.
But as long as Benzema is fit, it is expected Hamdallah will not be the main forward, and it will be difficult to change his position, given his lack of speed and similarity in play to the French striker.
Hamdallah will therefore have to accept a less important role, or search for another club, as Vincent Abu Bakr, Al-Nassr’s former striker, did last January when his club signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer and Benzema’s former colleague.
(Reporting by Osama Khairy; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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