France to leave out Benzema for Euro 2016

PARIS • France forward Karim Benzema, embroiled in the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape scandal, will not be selected for Euro 2016.

"Unfortunately for me and for those who have always backed me and supported me, I will not be selected for our Euro in France," Benzema tweeted on Wednesday.

Moments later, the French Football Federation (FFF) released a statement confirming that the organisation's president Noel le Graet had met with France coach Didier Deschamps to discuss Benzema's position.

They said that sporting performance is an important factor but not the only one that decides whether a player is called up to the France squad.

"The capacity of the players to strive towards unity, within and around the squad, to be exemplary... are also taken into account," the statement read.

"As a result, Noel le Graet and Didier Deschamps have decided that Karim Benzema will not be able to participate at Euro 2016."

Benzema was indefinitely suspended from the France team in December after he was placed under investigation over an attempt to blackmail France team-mate Valbuena in relation to a sex tape.

The 28-year-old has been accused of complicity in the attempt. Legal restrictions barring the Real Madrid star from coming into contact with Valbuena were recently lifted, but the case has not yet been resolved.

Benzema - the joint leading scorer among all French players in Europe's leading leagues this season, with 21 goals in La Liga - has denied any wrongdoing but could face a five-year jail term if found guilty.

The affair has gone right to the top of government in France, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls saying last month that Benzema should not be allowed to return to the national team while he remains at the centre of a formal investigation.

On Wednesday, Benzema's lawyer blamed the intervention of Valls for influencing the FFF's decision.

"I am not happy with the Prime Minister for getting involved in the selection of the France team. It is not his job," Eric Dupond-Moretti told RMC radio.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'France to leave out Benzema for Euro 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe