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SPORTS

Remarkable story of Karim Benzema's France return, sex tape scandal and impending trial

FOOTBALL By Mirror | May 19th 2021
France's forward Karim Benzema [AFP, Valery Hache]

Karim Benzema was a surprise inclusion in France's Euro 2020 squad having previously been snubbed by Didier Deschamps.

The striker has been in international exile for five years after being overlooked for the French Euro 2016 squad.

Benzema was originally overlooked due to his alleged involvement in an attempt to blackmail his former France teammate Matthieu Valbuena in a “sex tape” scandal.

A trial is due to take place after this summer’s tournament, on 20-22 October.

Benzema is accused of pressurising his former national teammate to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video in which Valbuena featured.

He will stand trial on the charge of conspiracy to attempt blackmail, the prosecutor’s office said.

Despite having to deal with that away from the pitch Benzema has gone from strength to strength on it.

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid has allowed him to take on a greater role and he has become the side's talisman.

On performances alone Benzema is fully deserving of a spot in the French squad, this term has has scored 29 times.

But when Deschamps took charge the French national side was, once again, dealing with accusations of racism.

Laurent Blanc had made comments during his tenure that saw calls for him to resign. He would leave after the Euros in 2012.

Deschamps was appointed his successor and set about changing the culture of the French football team.

The striker accused Deschamps of bowing to financial pressure following his snub in 2016, a year in which extreme right-wing party the National Front begun making progress in the elections.

Benzema tries to score against Germany on the last minute of their 2014 World Cup quarter-finals at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 4, 2014. [Reuters, Pilar Olivares]

"He has bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France," Benzema told Marca.

"He has to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections.

"I do not know, therefore, whether it is a decision only for Didier because I've gotten along with him, with the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everyone.

"They said I cannot be selected, fine. But on a sporting level, I don't understand why.

"At the judicial level, I have not been judged. I am not guilty, so we have to wait to see what the justice says. I like football and to play with my team."

Former France icon Eric Cantona also expressed concern over the decision to drop Benzema from the squad in 2016.

Compatriot Hatem Ben Afra had also been snubbed which sparked a controversial debate.

He told The Guardian: "Maybe no, but maybe yes. Why not? One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship.

"And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open."

Benzema's recall completes a total U-turn with France chief Le Great doubling down on Deschamps' stance before the 2018 World Cup.

France are fortunate that their attacking strength is such that the striker's absence does not adversely affect the squad's quality.

"You would have to be blind or deaf to not understand that Benzema will be difficult to select right now. It seems to be incontestable to me," the FFF President told RMC.

"We must also say that there are a number of talented players in attack, so the problem is perhaps less so than a few years ago.

"Deschamps picked him a lot during years when he was not brilliant in the French team."

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