Benzema to return to France squad for Euro 2020 for first time since sex-tape blackmail scandal – reports
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is reportedly set to make a sensational return to the French national team at the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament, over five years after winning his last cap following a sex-tape blackmail scandal.
If true, the news, which is being circulated by various outlets and sources after first being reported by Le Parisien, marks a U-turn from head coach Didier Deschamps.
In 2015, four-time Champions League winner Benzema was excluded from representing Les Bleus when a shocking plot to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena emerged.
Investigators claimed that Benzema was approached by a childhood friend to be an intermediary in the scandal, and convince Valbuena to negotiate with the blackmailers over the intimate footage.
Karim Benzema will be called up for France’s EUROs squad, per multiple reports 🇫🇷The Real Madrid striker hasn’t played for France since he was accused of helping blackmail former teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015.He has denied the allegations. pic.twitter.com/Bi0KnGfRnh— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 18, 2021
Instead, the 36-year-old currently starring for Olympiacos went to the police, and the case will finally be heard in court from October 20-22 this year when Benzema goes to court.
Benzema has categorically denied the claims.
In the meantime, France lost the Euro 2016 final to Portugal when Benzema's goals were missed, but won the World Cup in Russia two years later, denying the Real Madrid striker a winner's medal.
When the story broke, he faced a barrage of criticism and France's Prime Minister at the time, Manuel Valls, insisted the Lyon academy product had "no place" in Deschamps' team.
Following his Euros snub for the tournament held on home soil, Benzema accused the coach of "bowing to racists".
"He [Deschamps] has bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France," Benzema stated.
"He has to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections."
Scenes when Giroud and Benzema meet each other in training. pic.twitter.com/08MpRl7vlZ— Shoaib Mir (@Shoaibmir_) May 18, 2021
Re: Benzema | Perhaps Deschamps has decided that without Blaise Matuidi & Samuel Umtiti’s 2018 WC form & with the increased quality of Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands & others, France are not good enough defensively to execute the 2018 plan & need more attacking brilliance.— Get French Football News (@GFFN) May 18, 2021
A rift with positional rival Olivier Giroud was also caused last year, when Benzema quipped that whoever compares the two "shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting, and that’s me being kind."
"On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him. anymore. I just know that I’m F1," he concluded.
Yet with his 29 goal season in the Spanish capital and top form impossible to ignore, the veteran seems set to be offered what could be one last chance at major tournament silverware for his country at the age of 33.
On Tuesday evening, when Deschamps releases his 26-man squad list, all will be revealed.