PARIS - France striker Karim Benzema has agreed to join Real Madrid from Olympique Lyon, the two clubs said on Wednesday. The 21-year-old Benzema will become Real's third major signing after Brazil's Kaka and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. Real and Lyon agreed a transfer fee which could reach 41 million euros and Benzema will sign a six-year contract after undergoing a medical. "We needed to make a quick decision and we decided to let Karim go where he wanted," Lyon coach Claude Puel told reporters. "It's an important decision for him with a year to go before the World Cup," Puel added. "We are losing a high quality player and we know how much Lyon owe him but he needed a new challenge and he is, I believe, strong enough to face it." Benzema, who helped Lyon win four consecutive French titles from 2005 to 2008, had said previously he wanted to stay for at least another season. "A few days ago, Karim Benzema informed (Lyon) president Jean-Michel Aulas of his wish to join the Madrid club, the one he has always preferred after Lyon, more quickly than he had initially planned," the seven-times champions said in a statement on their website. SPENDING SPREE Real took their amazing recent spending spree to around 215 million euros after paying 93 million for Ronaldo, 67 million for Kaka and 15 million for defender Raul Albiol. "The player wished to seize the opportunity offered by Real Madrid to become a major element of their ambitious policy together with some of the world's greatest players," the Lyon statement read. An exciting mix of pace, power and skill, not unlike Brazil striker Ronaldo, his childhood hero, Benzema had been chased by several top European sides, including Manchester United. Born in Lyon to Algerian parents, Benzema shone through the youth ranks and made his Ligue 1 debut as a 17-year-old in 2005. His best season was 2007-08 in which he was Ligue 1's top scorer with 20 goals. Lyon also lifted the French Cup to complete their first domestic double. A member of France's Under-17 European championship-winning side in 2004 alongside Arsenal's Samir Nasri, Benzema has scored six goals in 24 appearances for France but has not yet fulfilled his potential at international level. Benzema will dream of walking in the footsteps of another gifted son of Algerian immigrants, Zinedine Zidane, who graced Real and is now special adviser to club chairman Florentino Perez. First of all, however, he must fight to win a place in the starting line-up of a Real side blessed with a number of highly talented attacking players. NEWS: Benzema next on Real spending spree NEWS: Pjanic refutes Benzema reports NEWS: Pjanic: Benzema Old Trafford-bound NEWS: Lyon braced for Benzema exit NEWS: Aulas: Benzema may be sold this summer NEWS: Benzema set for switch next year
1 July 2009
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