Fireworks show and 60,000 spectators greeted Karim Benzema at Al-Ittihad, where he immediately made an impact in his new role as a player. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner opted for a mega-deal in Saudi Arabia over Real Madrid.

His former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo was the first superstar to make the move to the Middle East, but now the Frenchman has joined him. When the 35-year-old striker was finally introduced to the sold-out crowd, they erupted in applause.

Benzema was concealed in the shadows until his dramatic reveal. The moment the lights went down, everyone saw him decked up in Al-Ittihad colors and sporting a No. 9 jersey on his back.

Why did Karim Benzema accept Al-Ittihad move?

While Karim Benzema is projected to make up to €200 million each season in Jeddah, he insists that financial considerations were not the only factor in his choice. The France international explained his decision to play in Saudi Arabia to the club’s media outlet.

“I am a Muslim and it is a Muslim country. I have always wanted to live there. I have already been to Saudi Arabia and I feel good there. The most important thing is that it is a Muslim country, dear and beautiful. When I spoke to my family about my move to Saudi Arabia, they were all very happy and here I am, for me, it’s where I want to be”, he said.

Benzema said Cristiano Ronaldo, his former colleague in Spain, was a major factor in his choice to leave Europe and move to the Middle East: “It is also important that Cristiano Ronaldo is in Saudi Arabia because he is a very important player. He brings a lot to football in this country and that will raise his level of play even more. So it’s important to show that Saudi football can have a global impact because it’s not about playing in Saudi Arabia or not.”