Karim Benzema (centre) joined Al-Ittihad amid much hype last summer. AFP / STR

French footballer Karim Benzema has been left stranded in Mauritius and is unable to fly to Dubai to join his teammates. Saudi Pro League side Al Ittihad are currently in Dubai for a winter training camp, but the captain had been left out due to the inclement weather which has grounded flights from the Indian Ocean island.

Al Ittihad manager Marcelo Gallardo has scheduled the training camp and refused to allow any squad members to extend their holiday. He did not wish to give preferential treatment to any of the club's players, regardless of their status.

According to a report from Marca, Benzema fully intended to fly to Dubai in time to start training with the rest of the squad. He even made attempts to catch a flight over the weekend and again on Monday.

However, the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner has remained stranded thanks to tropical cyclone Belal. The cyclone has been battering both Mauritius and Reunion Island over the past several days, causing heavy flooding. The cyclone has brought heavy rainfall and intense wind gusts with speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour (124 miles per hour) at low altitudes, and 250 kph in populated areas in higher altitudes.

The Indian Ocean islands have already reported one casualty from the storm. Over 100,000 people have been left without electricity and 37,000 people were without water in the past days due to precautionary cuts.

The flooding in Mauritius has made land travel nearly impossible as well, and even emergency services and first responders were not allowed to go out for several hours on Monday morning due to the dangerous conditions outside.

Benzema missed his deadline to rejoin the Al Ittihad squad

The former Real Madrid forward was reportedly given a deadline until last Friday to join his teammates in the UAE. Gallardo is determined to get the squad up to their best form, and has proceeded with training even without the captain.

The team certainly has a lot to improve, and they can't sit around waiting for Benzema to arrive. After winning the Saudi Pro League title last season, the Tigers have fallen into a slump in the ongoing campaign.

After a total of 19 match days played so far, they are sitting all the way down in seventh place in the league table. Leaders Al Hilal have 53 points, with Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr sitting in second place with 46 points.

Al Ittihad have only gathered a measly 28 points in comparison, which is certainly far below expectations.

Rumors of Benzema's possible exit

Benzema made the shocking decision to leave 14-time European champions Real Madrid to accept a lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia last summer. His arrival came at the heels former teammate Ronaldo's own sensational transfer to the Middle East, and many believed they could form an explosive rivalry between the two clubs.

However, while Ronaldo's Al Nassr are fighting at the top of the table, Al Ittihad are languishing in obscurity several places down. Things reached a breaking point in December when Al Ittihad was thrashed by Al Nassr 5-2 at home in their league encounter. Ronaldo scored two goals that evening, while Benzema was kept silent.

This led to massive abuse going Benzema's way from his own club's fans. He had to deactivate his social media accounts and reportedly left the country for a few days to decompress.

Now, with things looking increasingly troubled for the French striker in Saudi Arabia, rumours are floating around that he may end up on a loan spell in the Premier League. Chelsea FC and Manchester United are reportedly interested, with both clubs looking for solid reinforcements. However, these rumours have not been backed by confirmed statements and it remains to be seen if they prove to be true come June.