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Lyon confirms big bid for Benzema

LYON said yesterday that it has received a bid for striker Karim Benzema, but the French club refused to confirm reports that the offer had come from Real Madrid.

Spanish media reported that Madrid had signed Benzema for 35 million euros (US$50 million) and would confirm the 21-year-old France international's arrival late yesterday.

"We have received an offer markedly higher than the figure mentioned, but nothing proves that it has come from Real Madrid," Lyon's director of communications Olivier Blanc told the Website of sports daily L'Equipe. "There is no deal in place with anybody."

Manchester United are also said to be interested in signing Benzema.

Real Madrid did not comment on the reports.

Madrid has already bought midfielder Kaka from AC Milan, winger Cristiano Ronaldo from United and defender Raul Albiol from Valencia. Madrid spent a record 80 million pounds (US$131 million) on Ronaldo.

The Ronaldo transfer was completed yesterday. United reported on its Website yesterday that the fee has now been paid.

On Tuesday, Kaka ushered in Real Madrid's latest "galactico" era as the Spanish club gave the Brazil player a rock star welcome with an unveiling in front of at least 50,000 fans in Madrid, Spain.

After president Florentino Perez introduced Kaka for the first time since his 65 million euro acquisition from AC Milan, the 27-year-old playmaker shook his head in delight as fans chanted his name at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Today is a very special day for me. I'm very happy about this new step in my career at Real Madrid," said Kaka, who will wear the No. 8 shirt. "Viva Madrid!"

Kaka passed his medical earlier on Tuesday.

"There are no words for today, it's an unforgettable day," Kaka said through a translator. "All of this is a great honor and responsibility. I hope we can win titles and many victories."

Hopes are high

Kaka took the stage in front of a backdrop featuring photos of iconic Madrid players Alfredo di Stefano, Raul Gonzalez, Juanito and Zinedine Zidane. Accompanied by a young fan donning the first Kaka jersey, he subsequently did a tour of one half of the 80,000-capacity stadium to sign autographs and salute to the pumped-up masses.

Hopes are high at Madrid, which failed to get past the first knockout stage of Europe's top-tier competition for the fifth straight season and lost the league to bitter rival Barcelona, which became the first Spanish club to win the treble last season.

"Madrid has everything in terms of a fascinating team. And it's always been a reference for great players," Kaka said. "The project is very good. I can't wait to play."

Kaka, whose full name is Ricardo Izecson Dos Santos, won a Champions League, Serie A, Club World Cup and two European Supercups in his six seasons at Milan, which he joined from Sao Paulo in 2003. Kaka was also a member of Brazil's World Cup-winning team in 2002.

Perez has splashed out US$333 million this summer in a bid to turn the page on a sub-par season.


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