A day after the oil-rich nation almost missed out on capturing Lionel Messi, former Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was revealed as an Al-Ittihad player in front of tens of thousands of supporters in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

At Al-Ittihad's 60 000-seater stadium in Jeddah, where a gigantic 'KB9' was emblazoned on the pitch in bright lights, Benzema was greeted by fireworks and flame throwers while donning their black and yellow kit with the No. 9.

"Assalam o aleikum!" (Hello), the 35-year-old said to the crowd, before hoisting the Ballon d'Or – the trophy he won last year – above his head.

Benzema joins Portugal idol Cristiano Ronaldo as the latest superstar to join the Saudi Pro League, which has a hit-list of high-profile targets, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Following a protracted Saudi courting of Messi, the Argentina World Cup winner chose Inter Miami as his final club before retiring on Wednesday, prompting the Frenchman's visit in Jeddah.

Additionally, after more than a year of strife and legal wrangling that split the sport, Saudi-funded LIV Golf pulled off a shocking merger with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

Benzema claimed he was aiming for more hardware with the Saudi champions after winning five Champions Leagues, four LaLiga championships, and three Copas del Rey with Madrid.

"I'm hungry, I want to play and show what I can still do on the pitch, and especially to put the club where it should be, which is right at the top," he told a brief press conference.

Saudi Arabia has been on a buying spree of sporting goods thanks to its vast oil resources as part of ambitions to diversify its economy and draw in investment and tourism.

In 2021, the year it held its inaugural Formula One Grand Prix, the conservative monarchy, which is frequently criticized for its human rights record, purchased English team Newcastle United.