N’Golo Kante, a World Cup-winning midfielder for France, has joined Saudi Arabian champions Al Ittihad, the club said on Wednesday. He will team up with fellow countryman Karim Benzema at Al Ittihad.
“Kante is an Ittihad player now!” the club said in a statement on Twitter, while chairman Anmar al-Hailee tweeted: “Welcome to our new tiger Kante,” a reference to the team’s nickname.
The hardworking midfielder, who captured the World Cup with France in 2018, joins a long list of European athletes who have chosen to pursue their careers in Saudi Arabia.
His club career is glittering as well. He won back-to-back Premier League championships with Leicester City and Chelsea, as well as the Champions League and World Club Cup with Chelsea.
“Kante has signed a three-year contract with the club,” the Jeddah-based team said in a statement that offered no details on the contract’s monetary value.
“Kante’s addition to Al-Ittihad is considered one of the most high-profile and impactful signings in the club’s history. It is part of the club’s efforts to establish itself as a top choice for world-class players in the Saudi Professional League.”
The 32-year-old’s arrival follows that of former Real Madrid star Benzema, who joined Al-Ittihad earlier this month.
In a video posted online by the club, Benzema said in a message to his fellow Frenchman: “One time I told you, you’re the best player, box to box, in the world. Now I’m happy to play with you again, and of course in the best team in Saudi.”
Kante said he was “very excited to play for the Tigers”.
After joining Al-Nassr in January, Cristiano Ronaldo was already a member of the kingdom’s league.
Ruben Neves, a fellow Portuguese international and former Wolves player, is supposedly on the verge of joining Al Hilal.
Saudi Arabia, the conservative Gulf monarchy that is routinely criticized for its human rights record, has quickly emerged as a major force in world sports thanks to its oil wealth, spending billions of dollars in the process.
The World Cup is the presumptive target in football because it will raise Saudi Arabia’s profile and status as it strives to diversify its oil-dependent economy by luring visitors and investors.
The Asian Games in the style of the Olympics, the men’s football Asian Cup, and even the Asian Winter Games in 2029 will all be hosted by Saudi Arabia in the future years.