Off the Pitch

Benzema suspended from France duty

Karim Benzema has been suspended by the French Football Federation (FFF) and will not be considered for national team duty until the legal investigation surrounding an alleged plot to blackmail international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena has been concluded, FFF president Noel Le Graet has announced.

Benzema has been charged with complicity in an attempt to blackmail and participating in a criminal conspiracy as part of an investigation into a sex-tape plot involving Valbuena. The Real Madrid striker denies the charges.

The decision to suspend Benzema was announced by Le Graet on Thursday and could jeopardise his involvement at next year’s European Championship, which will be played in France..

“Today, Karim Benzema is no longer available for selection,” he said. “It’s a personal decision, I have informed [France coach Didier] Deschamps.”

“Benzema will not be available for selection in March, nor for Euro 2016 if the situation has not evolved.

“The Benzema affair for me hurts, but I am sanctioning him because I am the president of the FFF.

“What can change things? That the case is finally closed, that the two players can become friends again after a meeting.

“What this case alleges is not favourable for Karim Benzema.

“It is not enough for the two players to get on with each other, the case must be closed [for Benzema to return].

“Karim has bad acquaintances, that is clear, but he himself is not implicated in anything at all.

“He is often criticised, not well liked because of his manner, but for me he is a footballer of the highest level.

“Karim knows that I am fond of him. If nothing changes before the Euros, he will not play. I hope that this goes away.”

Le Graet, under whom the FFF are to bring a civil action in the case, with parties in French law able to make claims for compensation if they feel they have suffered damage or injury, revealed Deschamps had accepted his decision.

“He [Deschamps] agreed, he will not be making any negative comments about it,” he added.

“I am not angry at Benzema. I am more upset. I have watched his recent matches, his goals… this hurts me.

“I am sure that he has been caught up in something that goes beyond him, but I don’t want to carry out the trial. I am not his lawyer.”

Le Graet added: “Valbuena is available for selection.

“Valbuena has done nothing. He is guilty of nothing. He did the right thing to press charges. He was very close to Karim.

“They [Benzema and Valbuena] are not suddenly going to start playing boules together.”

Discussing his Euro 2016 hopes last weekend, Benzema told Telefoot: “My goal is to play in France’s team. It always has been and I do not want to [stop].

“I’m not afraid [of not playing at Euro 2016] because there are too many things in life to be afraid of.

“I dream because it is the Euros, a great competition and it is in France.”

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