There are many rumors that Nuno Espirito Santo’s dismissal of Al-Ittihad took place after an argument with Karim Benzema in a bitter loss in the AFC Champions League.
Former Tottenham and Wolves coach Nuno led his team to the Saudi Pro League title last season. It was thought that the addition of stars including Benzema and N’Golo Kante would take them to new heights, but the team from Jeddah is far behind league leader Al-Hilal in terms of scores.
Nuno was sacked after 5 games without a win in the National League. However, it was a continental defeat that appears to have cost him his job, as Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya handed them a 2-0 defeat.
According to Saudi news agency Al Riyadiah (via The Mail), Nuno told Benzema that he was “too lazy to put pressure on his opponent”. Benzema is said to have responded to the coach: “Don’t just tell me, tell the whole team.”
However, it does not end there, according to the same source. Benzema joined Al-Ittihad as the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, and Nuno is said to have used the veteran’s seniority to pour out criticism.
Nuno said: “You are the leader of the team, an example for the young players and the most important pillar. You must take the initiative and set an example for all the players.”
Several coaches have been mentioned as potential replacements for Nuno, including Benzema’s compatriots Zinedine Zidane and Laurent Blanc. Blanc has coached Benzema before, leading the French national team when they reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Dang Nguyen | 09:09 November 9, 2023