FootballOff the Pitch

French sports people need to be exemplary – Prime Minister

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says sports people who represent the country need to be “exemplary”.

Valls was speaking in response to a question regarding France striker Karim Benzema on Europe 1 and, while he did not mention the 27-year-old specifically, the implication was clear.

He said: “I am first, and foremost, a supporter of the France team. I cannot comment on all events relating to the France team and this or that person.

“But a great sportsman should be exemplary. If he is not exemplary he has no place in the France team.”

Benzema was charged by a court in Versailles last month with complicity in an attempt to blackmail and participating in a criminal conspiracy as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to extort money from international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

Sylvain Cormier – Benzema’s agent – has protested his client’s innocence, stating the Real Madrid striker is “absolutely calm and beyond reproach”, while Valbuena broke his public silence on the incident last Friday, telling Le Monde he was “more than disappointed” with Benzema’s behaviour.

France coach Didier Deschamps left both players out of his squad for the international friendlies with Germany and England – although Benzema was carrying an injury – as the issue rumbled on and Valls suggested that was the correct approach.

He added: “If there was a minister indicted, he would not be in the government and, in a way, it is similar to the France team.”

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