Zidane defends Benzema over Hollande jibe

While Karim Benzema (right) has seen his suspension from the national squad lifted, France national coach Didier Deschamps has yet to recall the striker back to his team even after the Euro 2016 tournament.
While Karim Benzema (right) has seen his suspension from the national squad lifted, France national coach Didier Deschamps has yet to recall the striker back to his team even after the Euro 2016 tournament.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane leapt to the defence of Karim Benzema, after the striker's conduct was once again criticised in his homeland by French president Francois Hollande.

Benzema has not represented his country since August last year after being caught up in a sex-tape blackmail scandal involving former international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

In a book published last week, however, Hollande claimed "morally, Benzema is not an example".

Zidane said yesterday, on the eve of Real's Champions League clash with Legia Warsaw: "In your work you can criticise, but you can't say strange things and it bothers the player. We have to see exactly what he said, but yes it annoys me."

Benzema's temporary suspension from playing for France has been lifted following Euro 2016, according to French Football Federation president Noel le Graet.

However, France coach Didier Deschamps has refused to call up Benzema, insisting the time is not right for a recall.

On the field, Zidane's men bounced back into form with a 6-1 thrashing of Real Betis on Saturday to end a run of four straight draws.

Another goal fest is expected at the Bernabeu today as Legia have conceded eight goals and failed to find the net in their two opening matches in Group F against Borussia Dortmund and Sporting Lisbon.

However, Zidane warned against the sort of complacency that cost his side in draws with Villarreal and Eibar at home this season.

"It is a 50-50 game and we have to play very well to make life difficult for them from the beginning," he said. "Legia are in the same competition as us, so to me there is not a gulf between the sides."

Zidane confirmed James Rodriguez is fit to return from injury, but Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Casemiro remain unavailable.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Zidane defends Benzema over Hollande jibe'. Print Edition | Subscribe