French Sports Minister Roxana Marakinyanu has welcomed the return of striker Karim Benzema to the country’s national team after a long exile.
With a surprise move Tuesday, French coach Didier Deschamps recalled Benzema after nearly six years over his links to the “sex tape scandal.” The Real Madrid striker was included in the coach’s 26th squad for this year’s European Championship.
In contrast to the hostile political reactions Benzema faced when he was banned from the team more than five years ago, Marakinyanu said she was “very happy” to see him again with Les Blaus before Euro 2020.
“I am sure it will be an additional asset for France to shine on the euro,” Maracinanu said.
The 33-year-old Benzema, the most talented French striker of his generation, played the last of his 81 games for France in October 2015, scoring twice in a friendly against Armenia to take his international total to 27 goals.
He will be tried in October for his alleged involvement in the extortion of former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema, who denies wrongdoing, is suspected of pressuring Valbuena in 2015 to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video featuring Valbuena.
When the story erupted, Benzema faced a flurry of criticism, and then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the former Lyon player had no “place” on the national team. Former French President Francois Hollande has been quoted as saying in a book that Benzema is not an example of morality.