Karim Benzema, AFC Champions League

Understanding Three Reasons Behind Karim Benzema’s Exclusion from the AFC Champions League

Not everything is going well in the Saudi Pro League (SPL) after reports of 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was seeking an exit from Al-Ittihad during the January transfer window. The Frenchman, who joined the SPL outfit on a free transfer in the summer of 2023 has been in hot water with coach Marcelo Gallardo and has therefore been out of action.

However, that trend continued during the AFC Champions League as well when the former Real Madrid man was not included in the first leg of the Champions League contest against Navbahor. So what are the reasons Benzema was dropped from the squad for the AFC Champions League?

Karim Benzema (Credits: Getty)
Karim Benzema (Credits: Getty)

Fall out with coach Marcelo Gallardo

Ever since making his move to Saudi Arabia, Benzema’s relationship with Argentine Gallardo has been off track and there have been reports that say they don’t even exchange morning or evening greets. The relationship between the player and the coach has reached friction as the coach does not fancy the Frenchman despite his good return during the season. So far 24 matches for the club, Benzema has netted 15 goals, averaging a goal every two games.

Fitness and disciplinary issues

Heading into the Champions League clash against Uzbekistani outfit Navbahor on Thursday, coach Gallardo stated that Benzema is not fit to play. There have been no medical reports in the media regarding the fitness of the payer, however, it is reported that Benzema is overweight and needs to work on his body before getting a place in the Starting XI.

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N’Golo Kanté, Fabinho, Ahmed Hegazi, Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah were preferred in the Champions League contest against Navbahor, resulting in the player missing out on the five-man foreign quota. Benzema, however, has claimed that he is fit to start a competitive match despite the SPL and Champions League getting underway.

It is also reported that Benzema has been a big headache to coach Gallardo as he arrives late for training and is not in the best shape. Further, he is setting wrong examples for the young stars and could create a rift between the senior and junior players due to the disciplinary issues with Benzema.

The player wants out of the club

One of the biggest factors Benzema may not have been included in the AFC Champions League is his desire to leave the club. In the January transfer window, it was reported that the 26-year-old had handed a transfer request and wanted to leave the club. However, that did not go well with the club’s hierarchy but still wanted to retain the player’s service.

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