Fri, Jul 03, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Real sign Karim Benzema

AFP AND AP , LYON, FRANCE

Lyon announced on Wednesday the transfer of Karim Benzema to Real Madrid for 35 million euros (US$49 million) in a deal which dashes Manchester United’s attempts to capture the France striker.

In a statement the French club announced that the fee could rise to as much as 41 million euros depending on various bonuses attached to the deal.

Lyon, in a statement on their Web site, said they had accepted Benzema’s decision after he had made it clear he wanted the deal to be “concluded quicker than initially envisaged.”

“The club wishes Karim the greatest success with Real Madrid,” the statement said.

Real confirmed the transfer. In a brief statement it said Benzema would sign a six-year contract, but did not indicate the fee.

Lyon coach Claude Puel wished Benzema well and believed that he would rise to the occasion, despite some less than inspiring performances when called upon by the French national side, especially at Euro 2008, where he clashed with several of the senior players for showing a lack of respect.

“Playing for Real will open up all sorts of different perspectives and challenges for him and where he will be surrounded by really big stars,” Puel said.

“It is a great opportunity for Karim. I hope that he will be at his best,” he said.

The move was sealed after Real agreed to increase its original offer from 32 million euros.

Benzema was the fourth signing by Real under the new presidency of “Galacticos” president Florentino Perez, after Brazilian midfielder Kaka, Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo and Spanish defender Raul Albiol.

After Kaka was presented to fans at the Bernabeu stadium on Tuesday evening, Perez told Spanish radio that the next signing would be announced “today or tomorrow.”

Real have been keen on Benzema since negotiations broke down with Valencia for Spanish international David Villa.

The former France and Real star Zinedine Zidane, who is now a senior advisor at the club had recommended Benzema to Perez, Spanish media said.

Benzema has played at the seven-time French champions since 2004, where he was top scorer in the French league in 2007 and 2008.

Lyon said last week that they wanted to keep him for another year.

Real also have their eye on another France international, Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery.

Ribery says he wants to join Real Madrid and wants a move sorted out quickly.

“It’s decided, I want to leave,” Ribery told sports daily L’Equipe yesterday. “Yes, it will be to Real or nothing.”

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