France coach Didier Deschamps has recalled striker Karim Benzema after nearly six years over his alleged role in a “sex tape” scandal, including the Real Madrid star in his squad for the European Championship.
The 33-year-old Benzema played the last of his 81 games for Les Bleus in October 2015, scoring twice in a friendly against Armenia to take his international total to 27 goals.
“Why now? I don’t have the capacity and no one, not even Karim, can go back and change the past,” Deschamps said when he announced his team on national television. “The most important thing is today and the future.”
Benzema expressed his relief in a statement on his Twitter account.
“I am so proud of this return to the French team and the trust I have been given,” he wrote. “Thanks to my family, my friends, my club, to you (the fans) … and to everyone who supported me. and it gave me strength every day. “
He was banned by the national team because of the scandal with the “sex tape”, in which he allegedly participated in the extortion of former French teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema faced a barrage of criticism, and then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the striker had no place in the national team.
Benzema, who is of Algerian descent, had good relations with Deschamps. But in an interview, he had accused Deschamps of succumbing to racist pressure when the coach decided not to include him in Euro 2016.
Deschamps, whose family home was marked with offensive graffiti after Benzema’s interview, said he spoke directly to Benzema to clear the air.
“Obviously, in order to reach this decision, important steps had to be taken, one of which was very important. We met, we talked for a long time, “said Deschamps. “It was the most important step, after which I obviously thought for a long time about many things and to come to this decision now.”
Deschamps made it clear that any prolonged insult seemed to be buried.
“I will not say a word about the discussion between us, it only affects the two of us. But he needed him and I needed him, “Deschamps said.” I think the French team is above everything else. It does not belong to me, although I am aware of the important responsibility I have. “
Benzema was arguably in the best shape of his career, scoring 29 goals in 45 games this season and building a close relationship with Zinedine Zidane, the former great of France, who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 in the same country as Deshan.
Benzema has appeared in Madrid since Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus three years ago, climbing to fifth on the club’s all-time points list with 278 goals.
His return could cost Olivier Giroud his starting place in the national team due to lack of preparation for the match. Giroud has hardly played for Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel took over the Premier League after Frank Lampard was sacked, with Tuhel using him mainly as a substitute since February.
“I think the choice is for the good of the team, as always, and the French team needs to be better with Benzema in it,” said Deschamps. Let’s not forget that France have had very good results for many years. We were runners-up at the European Championships and won the World Cup (in 2018). “
But Deschamps sounded excited when asked if Benzema would play in a three-man attack alongside Paris Saint-Germain star Caylian Mbape and Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann, who played Benzema at the 2014 World Cup.
“It’s part of the thinking, yes. “Obviously on paper a lot of things can look really great,” he said. I’m happy that I can count on very, very high level players … I can’t complain. “
Sevilla’s midfielder Jules Kunde was called up for the first time, but Manchester United striker Anthony Martial was missed after trying to shake off a knee injury he suffered with France in late March.
All eyes will be on Benzema if he is selected against Germany on June 15 – seven years after playing in a losing country against the Germans in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Brazil.
A little over a year later, his international career was in free fall.
The scandal caused huge waves in France and led to huge consequences between Benzema and the cunning winger Valbuena, who were once teammates.
He is suspected of pressuring Valbuena to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video in which Valbuena was involved.
In October, Benzema will face trial on charges of complicity in an attempted extortion, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($ 90,000). At the time, Benzema could win their first big trophy with Les Bleus after winning four Champions League titles with Madrid.
The strong performance of Euro 2020 may also push his cause to become the first winner of France at the prestigious “Golden Ball” award from Zidane in 98.